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Can you be taken to court for unpaid ER bills? PIOG

Posted by on Jul. 31, 2013 at 5:15 PM
  • 22 Replies

Can you?  In the last week I have received 1-2 phone calls a day from a debt collector and just received a letter/statement in the mail this week. I generally don't answer phone numbers that I don't recognize, but I thought it was a friend of mine. The lady goes on to tell me that she's calling on behalf of this company for an ER visit I have January of 2010. Why haven't I paid? Why haven't I contacted them? I do my best not to get upset, but this lady was nasty. She went on to tell me that she was going to contact my employer to verify my employment - um - no you're not! I work for family and they aren't going to tell you jack!!! I also told her that they weren't going to garnish my wages like they think they can so there wasn't any reason to call my job. She said something and I lost it. She told me that they could take me to court and I would have to pay all of the court fees and so on. That as of right now this isn't on my credit but will be. I ended up hanging up on her.

They are charging an additional $222 on top of the $888 that the hospital originally charged me. I asked for a document in the mail, she tells me "No. I'm not sending you anything in the mail that's going to cost us money. I can email it." Fine!! I waited for over an hour and nothing so I called the place back from the number she called me from. A new lady says that the first lady wasn't allowed to send it after she talked to the supervisor - it's on hold - they're going to send a letter and the supervisor is going to send a letter to my email. Whatever. I talked to a few people and none of them have been taken to court or anything over unpaid medical bills. I have been to the ER 3 times in the last 6 years with no insurance (while I was pregnant I was on Medicaid and went three times all pregnancy related) and they were for things that I couldn't wait until a walk-in doctor opened or until I could find an affordable doctor that I could pay out of pocket.

I've been ignoring the phone calls - I added them to my contact list so that I don't accidentally answer it. I feel bad, sure, but so many things have happened over the years and I've honestly forgotten about it. Now for me to attempt to pay $10 a week even is a lot. By now the hospital and staff has already been paid for this bill - so I'm tempted to just keep ignoring it.

by on Jul. 31, 2013 at 5:15 PM
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Replies (1-10):
by Bronze Member on Jul. 31, 2013 at 5:18 PM
3 moms liked this

Pay your damn bills! 

by Anonymous 1 on Jul. 31, 2013 at 5:20 PM

Did you ever pay the $888 that you were originally billed?

by Bronze Member on Jul. 31, 2013 at 5:23 PM
1 mom liked this

Yes, you can be taken to civil court, small claims, for this unpaid debt.  It is so small, I don't know if a debt collector would even bother going to court because it will cost them money.    If it goes to court and  the judge rules in their favor, then your wages could be garnished (if you family business doesn't do it, they will be held in contempt of court) or they could be a lien against your home, if you own it.   You need to research about debt collectors.  They cannot call and harrass you.   If they call, kindly ask them to put everything in writign to you and to not call you again.   When you get the letter, respond back with another letter making tehm prove these are really your bills.   You can also call the hospital, let them know your situation, but they may not be able to help because the case has been sold to a debt collector.  

by Taco Bell Princess on Jul. 31, 2013 at 5:26 PM
They must get a judgement entered against you (aka you lose in court) to garnish.

Most states have a small claims court limit in the thousands so they would have to recover there.

They MUST provide you with a written statement. They can't opt out because of "cost" or inconvenience. That is the law.

They can indeed sue you, but they cannot recover attorneys fees. So the cost of a lawyer, personal service to you and research is easily 10x what you owe. In short, suing you is an empty threat.

My advice: contact the billing department for the hospital and request the name of the collection agency it was sold to (the agency will lie about this). Then you have the information you need to file a complaint against them with the state department in which they are based. They don't tolerate violation of the fair debt collection act.

Good luck. Most companies offer you a greatly reduced payment amount at tax time so maybe try going that route:
by on Jul. 31, 2013 at 5:45 PM
I imagine you probably can be. The last I knew (over 10 years ago) in my part of NY, small claims court was anything under $750. Perhaps you can work out some arrangement where you pay a certain amount per month until your bill is paid off. If you're trying to make good on your bill, the hospital should be willing to work with you.
by Member on Jul. 31, 2013 at 5:51 PM

Yes, you can.

by Silver Member on Jul. 31, 2013 at 10:37 PM

Yes you can.  I was on the receiving end of a judgment where they garnished my wages for a debt my ex husband incurred! The bill/letters went to the house I had shared with my ex, they found my place of employment (how I still have no idea since I didn't have that job when I was with my ex). Well long story short, my employer ended up receiving paperwork stating they had to garnish my wages and what the terms were. I have since taken it back to court and my ex was ordered to pay back everything that was garnished before I received that judgment.

by Bronze Member on Jul. 31, 2013 at 11:33 PM

If you ask for records, they HAVE to provide it, by Federal law. If they don't provide it, tell them you're going to report them to the FTC, Demand the name of the caller, the name of the caller's company, the name of the caller's manager.

Then tell them you're recording the call (even if you're not), and it is now on record that "you are no longer permitted to call this number in regards to this issue. All communication must be done by mail."

Because of the "don't bother me" laws, they have to comply with these requests. More than likely, though, what will happen is that you will get the same call from a couple of different people. When that happens, say: "You should see in your records that I have said all communication must be done in hardcopy through the mail. I cannot speak to you about this." and then hang up.

One of two things will happen. You'll either get that official letter and then you can officially contest it and demand to see the original hospital bill, or your account will be sold to another company and you'll have to start the whole process over again.

BTW - while the CAN take you to small claims court, they won't. They're a collection company, not a law firm. They don't have the personnel for that. Most "collections officers" are barely h.s. graduates who are reading from a script.

(I'm a paralegal for a law firm; we handle complaints against collection companies often)

by on Jul. 31, 2013 at 11:42 PM

They can, but they must abide by federal and state laws in order to collect debt.

by Member on Jul. 31, 2013 at 11:48 PM
Garnishment and small claims all depend on your state. I am in Florida and there is very little that can be garnished - medical bills cannot. A Personal lien can be set but not a property lien. You may need to do some research, but if they say you owe money then they need to mail not email you some proof if the original bill.
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