If you have medical debt, there is a lot of information that you will want to know. We put this short guide together to help you understand the process.
Yes, a medical debt collector can take you to court. If they think that there is no other way for them to recover funds from you, they will probably do it.
The best way to avoid this situation is to pay your medical debts on time as often as you can. However, not everyone is in a financial position where they can afford to do that. Be sure that you keep reading to learn everything on this topic.
When Debt Collectors Sue
When you have unpaid medical bills, the hospital will contact you and ask for the payments. If you do not pay, they might take further measures.
Those measures might include giving your account to the internal collection department- or a debt collection agency. When you refuse to pay the collectors, they might file a lawsuit against you.
The hospital can also sue you. They are much less likely to when you have a bill under $1,000, however. The hospital is more likely to when you have an extremely high bill.
They Can Not Send You to Jail
Even though you might have to go to court, you can not go to jail over medical debt. You are safe because medical debts are civil debts. You can not go to jail for a civil debt since it would be against the law.
You must show up to anything and everything that the court asks you to. If you skip out, the court can issue a warrant for your arrest. While you would be spending some time in jail, it would be for ignoring the court order and not medical debts.
What to Do When You are Sued for Debt
If you are being sued for medical debt, you need to respond to the notice. The biggest mistake people make is not responding to the summons. When you ignore it, the collection agency gets a default judgment against you.
A default judgment means they have many new ways to collect from you. Their methods could include wage garnishment- or even taking money straight from your bank account. When you do not show up, you might be responsible for their court and attorney fees on top of your debts.
When you respond, do not admit your liability for the debt. The debtor’s job is to prove that you owe them in front of the court. If they can not, then you might not have to pay.
The time limit to respond to the lawsuit summons is usually between 20 and 30 days from the date on the paper. Be sure that you send it out early enough because missing that deadline will have the same consequences as not responding at all.
You Can Challenge the Lawsuit
When a debt collector decides to sue, your debts were sold to them by someone else, usually the hospital. However, they might have received it from other debt collectors. You can challenge the lawsuit by asking if the collector even has the right to file.
The collector that is pursuing charges against you is legally required to show the court proof that they have the right to do so. When you do not respond, the court takes this as an admission of responsibility for the debt- so always ask for proof in writing.
The collector will need to show the court your medical bills and that all of their information is accurate and belongs to you.
To summarize, yes. A medical debt collector can take you to court when you do not pay your bills. However, you can not go to jail for medical debt. It is also crucial that you respond to any court summons.