Summary: Are the debt collectors coming after you for medical bills? Find out if you need a lawyer for medical bills and how to recover from medical debt.
When medical debt is sold to collections, it is because a collection agency has either purchased the debt or been hired to collect the debt by the original creditor. Typically this debt will then be reported to one, or all, of the three credit bureaus: Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax.
Once your medical bills are 180 days past due, you will see them on your credit report. This period is only given to those with medical debt, to attempt to resolve any issues involved. At this time you can also make arrangements to pay off the bills or get things fixed if you believe they are incorrect. Otherwise, you may be taken to court.
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If you have an unpaid medical debt, then you will most likely see an impact on your credit scores. This does not necessarily mean that you need a lawyer for medical bills. If you have a past due account your credit score will go down, but you have a few options.
What you also need to understand is what your situation entails. If you are being sued for medical debt, it most likely means that you have not paid your debt off and are possibly ignoring the person trying to collect on it. If this is the case, avoid ignoring and, instead, do the following.
- Gather evidence: If you can collect documentation regarding what you gave paid, or if you even owe the debt, this is a good start. You can also ask for proof that you owe the debt and force the debt collector to prove your responsibility. If they cannot, they cannot legally sue you.
- File your dispute: If you want to dispute because you think it is inaccurate, then you can do so with any credit bureau that's reporting the error.
- Continue with communication: The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires that credit bureaus follow up on all credit reporting error disputes. Additionally, the Fair Debt Consumer Practices Act (FDCPA), governs how a debt collector may speak with you. They might violate this act and provide you with a counterclaim against them to bring up in court.
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Understanding the debt collection process and your options
When you owe on a debt and that debt is sold to a collection agency, they will then report it to the credit bureaus. This can stay on your credit history for seven years, from the original date that you became delinquent. This date is the date that the account first became late. Paying off your debt is the best option, but even if you pay it you may still have it on your credit report. It will show paid, but it will remain there for years. If you are unable to pay them, then you may need to look into other options.
Payment plans. Depending on your circumstances, some medical offices may be willing to set up a payment plan for you. If this is the case, you might be able to avoid collections altogether. In other cases, this may not be possible because it might have already been sold off to collections. If your debt has already been sold to a collection agency, then contact that agency to work out payment arrangements. This will allow you to pay off the debt at your own rate.
Settlement. Paid collections are looked at better than unpaid collections, and if you are unable to pay the bill completely, you might be able to settle. Settling is when you pay less for debt and typically pay it in full. Settlements are not considered a positive thing on your credit score, but settling the debt is better than leaving it unpaid.
Statute of limitations. One good way to avoid needing a lawyer for medical debt is to understand the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is a law that governs how long a creditor can legally attempt to collect on a specific debt. This period varies based on the state you live in, and the type of debt. Despite this, you will still technically owe the debt even after the statute of limitations has expired. This means it will stay on your credit report. All the statute ensures is that you cannot be taken to court any longer, and therefore definitely do not need a lawyer.
Check your credit reports. After you have gone to court for debt or paid off the account, ensure that the collection agency has notified the reporting companies. Your account should be updated to note that you paid it off fully. You can also check this by requesting a copy of your report but all three agencies, once yearly for free. If you find anything inaccurate then be sure to dispute it. Especially if it has been a few months since you paid off your debt. Your account should be updated at that point.
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Rebuilding credit after medical collections
Rebuilding your credit when you have a collection account on your report can be difficult, but there are a few steps you can take to improve your credit. For example, pay off all of your past-due debts. If you paid off your medical account, then the next step is to work towards others. At least attempt to bring any past due accounts to a “current” status.
Another tip is to try and make all your payments on time. This will help you to improve your payment history and get your scores higher in the future. As time goes on this will affect your scores less and less. You can also work to pay down any credit card balances you have. Your utilization rate is huge for an impact on your credit scores. This will help you raise it.
Overall, you do not need a lawyer to fight medical debt. Simply gather information, look into any violations of the FDCPA, and ask them to prove your responsibility for the debt. As a final straw you should consider settling, but always avoid ignoring the debt collector.
What is SoloSuit?
SoloSuit makes it easy to respond to a debt collection lawsuit.
How it works: SoloSuit is a step-by-step web-app that asks you all the necessary questions to complete your answer. Upon completion, you can either print the completed forms and mail in the hard copies to the courts or you can pay SoloSuit to file it for you and to have an attorney review the document.
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