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Is There a Statute of Limitations on Medical Bills?

Hannah Locklear | December 12, 2023

Hannah Locklear
Editor at SoloSuit
Hannah Locklear, BA

Hannah Locklear is SoloSuit’s Marketing and Impact Manager. With an educational background in Linguistics, Spanish, and International Development from Brigham Young University, Hannah has also worked as a legal support specialist for several years.

Fact-checked by Patrick Austin, J.D.

Patrick Austin
Attorney from George Mason
Patrick Austin, JD

Patrick Austin is a licensed attorney with a background in data privacy and information security law. Patrick received his law degree at George Mason University's Antonin Scalia Law School, where he served as the Editor-in-Chief for the National Security Law Journal.

Summary: The statute of limitations on medical bills ranges from three to ten years, but it varies by state. Even if the statute of limitations on your medical debt has expired, the debt can still affect your credit score for up to seven years. If you’ve been sued for medical debt, use SoloSuit to draft and file an Answer to increase your chances of winning by 7x.

If you are being sued by a debt collector regarding unpaid medical bills, it is important to determine the age of the outstanding medical debt. Why? Because you may be able to use the statute of limitations as a defense to get the debt collection lawsuit thrown out of court.

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What is a statute of limitations?

The term “statute of limitations” refers to the time period that an individual or company has to file a legal action. In other words, creditors and debt collectors only have a certain number of years to sue someone for a debt they owe before the statute of limitations prevents such action.

When it comes to medical debt, the statute of limitations typically becomes an issue when a debt collector is attempting to recover on a bill that has been deemed “unpaid” for years.

It is important to understand that the courts do not track the statute of limitations. Instead, the responsibility falls on the defendant (i.e. you) to raise the statute of limitations as a defense and affirmatively request that the collection lawsuit be dismissed due to the expired statute of limitations.

The statute of limitations can be an effective tool in getting a debt collection lawsuit dismissed, if applicable. However, it is important to understand that even if the medical debt is beyond the statute of limitations, it does not mean the debt is wiped away from your records. It simply means the debt cannot be recovered through a lawsuit.

Even if you can no longer be sued for medical debt due to the statute of limitations, the debt can still stay on and negatively impact your credit report for seven years.

Use our Statute of Limitations Calculator to find your limit

Lots of people wonder what the limit is on their medical debt, so we built out Statute of Limitations Calculator to make it easy to find when the statute of limitations expires on your debt. Again, once it is expired, a collector can't sue you for it and you can bring it up as a defense if they do. Just answer the questions below and calculate your limit.

Statute of Limitations Calculator

Select your state.

Choose the debt type.

Select the last day you made a payment.

The Satute of Limitations

This calculator is for educational purposes only.

Unpaid medical debt can impact your credit

Medical debt, just like other types of debt, is listed on your credit report, including whether the debt is delinquent or current. As mentioned earlier in this article, the statute of limitations does not directly impact or influence the amount of time a debt can remain on your credit report and the impact it can have on your score.

When you have unpaid medical debt in collections, it will stay on your credit report for at least seven years. After seven years have passed, the debt may no longer be visible on your credit report, unless a debt collector pursues a judgment against you during that time period.

If you can repay a delinquent medical bill, that repayment should be updated on your credit report and taken out of the collections category. Depending on your particular situation, you may be able to have the medical debt deleted entirely from your credit report. This is common when someone is wrongly sued for a medical debt they do not owe.

If you're negotiating with a debt collector, confirm that steps will be taken to update the status of the account on your credit report before you agree to make a payment.

If you are being harassed by a debt collector or were served with a Summons and Complaint, related to unpaid medical bills, it is important to determine the age of the debt so you can assess whether a statute of limitations defense is viable. The relevant statute of limitations for your particular matter will depend on the state in which you reside and the type of medical debt you purportedly have.

Let’s consider an example.

Example: Sandy is being sued by a debt collector for an old medical debt in Delaware. After investigating the debt, Sandy discovers the last payment made on the delinquent account occurred more than four years ago. Since the statute of limitations on medical debt is three years in Delaware, the statute of limitations could be raised as a viable defense to challenge the debt collection lawsuit. Sandy uses SoloSuit to respond to the lawsuit. In her Answer document, Sandy lists the expired statute of limitations as one of her defenses, and the case gets dismissed. However, the debt will still affect Sandy’s credit score until seven years has passed from the date it appeared on her credit report.

The statute of limitations on medical debt is different in every state

It is important to understand that there is no general, one-size-fits-all statute of limitations. Therefore, the statute of limitations on your debt is determined by the laws of the state in which you reside.

Each state legislature enacts its own set of statutes related to different types of legal actions, including the collection of unpaid debts. In most states, the statute of limitations to collect on unpaid medical bills is between three and six years. However, in some states, a creditor has between 10-15 years to try and collect on the debt.

In the table below, we’ve outlined the statute of limitations on medical debt in every state.

Statute of Limitations on Medical Debt in All 50 States

State Medical Debt Expiration Deadline


6 years


3 years


6 years


5 years


4 years


6 years


6 years


3 years


5 years


6 years


6 years


5 years


10 years


10 years


10 years


5 years


10 years


10 years


6 years


3 years


6 years


6 years


6 years


3 years


10 years


8 years


5 years


6 years

New Hampshire

3 years

New Jersey

6 years

New Mexico

6 years

New York

6 years

North Carolina

3 years

North Dakota

6 years


6 years


5 years


6 years


4 years

Rhode Island

10 years

South Carolina

3 years

South Dakota

6 years


6 years


4 years


6 years


6 years


5 years


6 years

West Virginia

10 years


6 years


10 years

To learn more, check out our guide to the statute of limitations on debt in all 50 states.

The statute of limitations varies by the type of debt

It is necessary to determine not only the age of the debt but the specific type of debt that is attempting to be collected upon. This is because the applicable time limits vary depending on the type of debt. Here is an overview of the general categories of debt:

  • Contractual Debt - Virtually all financial obligations that require the signing of a contract are considered to be contractual debts. Many forms of medical debt are categorized as contractual debt.

  • Debt Based Upon a Promissory Note - A promissory note is generally considered to be a written agreement where you expressly agree to repay a specific amount of money via a set number of payments, at a specific interest rate, and within a specific period of time. Some medical debt falls into the promissory note category, particularly when someone takes out a personal loan to help pay for a medical procedure or treatment.

  • Debt From an Open-Ended Credit Account - Credit cards and lines of credit are considered to be “open-ended” accounts since the amount you owe, and the amount you have to pay back each month will fluctuate. Some people use credit cards to help pay for expensive medical procedures and treatments so it is possible for medical debt to accrue through this type of account.

  • Debt Through an Oral Agreement - Some debts can be made based upon a verbal agreement between two or more individuals. This rarely applies in the context of medical debt

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Debt collectors may trick you to reset the statute of limitations

Many debt collectors, especially large debt collection agencies working on behalf of insurance companies and hospitals, are well versed in the statute of limitations. They routinely attempt to take advantage of consumers who may not have much knowledge about how the statute of limitations works and exploit it to their advantage. For example, if you make a payment on an old debt, it is important to understand that the new payment effectively resets the proverbial clock on the statute of limitations.

This is why it is fairly common for a debt collector attempting to recover on old medical debt to try and pressure you into making a fairly small, nominal payment towards the amount owed. The only reason they are asking for a small amount is to ensure the clock is reset for the statute of limitations.

Don't let debt collectors trick you into paying an old debt. Respond with SoloSuit.

Respond to a medical debt lawsuit

If you’ve been sued for a medical debt, you must respond to the lawsuit regardless of your state’s statute of limitations on the debt.

To respond to a medical debt lawsuit, you must file a written Answer into the case and serve the opposing attorney. You may think you have to hire a lawyer to represent you in your case. We’re here to show you how you can represent yourself in court and win.

Follow these three steps to respond to a debt lawsuit:

  1. Respond to every claim listed against you in the case. When you’re sued, you’ll receive court documents that outline each allegation against you. In your Answer, you should admit, deny, or deny due to lack of knowledge to respond to each claim (in corresponding order). Most attorneys recommend denying the majority of the claims, otherwise, the court may consider your admissions proof that you owe it all.

  2. Assert your affirmative defenses. These are any legal reasons that you shouldn’t be held liable for the debt in question. For example, an expired statute of limitations on medical debt is a great affirmative defense to use. If proven, the case will be thrown out.

  3. File the Answer before your state’s deadline. Once you’ve drafted your Answer, be sure to file it before the deadline to avoid a default judgment. You should also deliver the Answer to the opposing party’s lawyer.

SoloSuit can help you draft and file an Answer in all 50 states.

Let’s take a look at another example.

Example: Harry is being sued for a medical debt that is more than three years old in Mississippi. He uses SoloSuit to respond to the case. Since the statute of limitations on medical debt in Mississippi is three years, Harry uses this as one of his affirmative defenses in his Answer. He also denies most of the claims against him. SoloSuit files the Answer with the court on Harry’s behalf and delivers it to the debt collector’s lawyer. When the lawyer receives Harry’s Answer, she files a Motion to Dismiss into the case, ending it early.

To learn more about these three steps, check out this video:

What is SoloSuit?

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You can use SoloSuit to respond to a debt lawsuit, to send letters to collectors, and even to settle a debt.

SoloSuit's Answer service is a step-by-step web-app that asks you all the necessary questions to complete your Answer. Upon completion, we'll have an attorney review your document and we'll file it for you.

>>Read the FastCompany article: Debt Lawsuits Are Complicated: This Website Makes Them Simpler To Navigate

>>Read the NPR story on SoloSuit. (We can help you in all 50 states.)

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