Summoned to Court for Medical Bills? What to Do Next
George Simons | November 08, 2022
Nobody likes having medical debt...
Summary: If you experienced a medical emergency, you likely got stuck with a hefty medical bill, even with insurance. Luckily, laws like the No Surprises Act protect you from unexpected medical expenses. You also have options to get out of medical debt, including payment plans, fighting the debt, applying for a hardship loan, etc. If you are sued for medical debt, SoloSuit can help you respond and win in court.
Let's face it: Medical bills can be more confusing than your high school trigonometry class. Whether you go to the hospital for an accident, illness, or an unexpected emergency, it can leave you with a big pile of bills and a whole lot of confusion about how you are going to pay them.
So, what should you do if you experience a medical catastrophe and find yourself being summoned to court for medical bills? Start by understanding your rights, your resources, and your reasonable courses of action to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Know your rights
Life is full of good and bad surprises. It's safe to say that a suit for medical bills falls under the category of bad surprises.
But there is good news. You have rights and avenues to protect yourself. These protections include the No Surprises Act. Beginning in 2022, this legislation will enact key protections for consumers against the potentially high cost of unanticipated, out-of-network medical bills. Because surprise medical emergencies can happen anywhere, including areas where patients will have little to no say in the care they receive, this act protects citizens from outrageous out-of-network bills that would otherwise result from such care. Among other things, this new legislation offers specific guarantees:
Health plans will cover unexpected bills at in-network rates.
Balance billing will be prohibited.
Excess charges from out-of-network providers will be done away.
Specific oversight and enforcement activities will be required.
One of the greatest misconceptions about medical debt is that there is one way out: their way. If you believe this, you could not be more wrong. You have a myriad of options to help you get out of medical debt before or even during proceedings of a suit:
Payment plans. Often collectors or medical facilities are willing to work with you on a fair payment plan if you proactively contact them.
Self-negotiation. In some instances, you can negotiate your way into a lower bill by telling the facility what you are currently able to pay in cash.
Scrutinize the bill. Carefully review what you were billed for, and look for incorrect charges.
Check the statute of limitations. Each state has a statute of limitations for medical debt that sets a deadline for collectors to sue. If your debt has passed the statute of limitations, you can’t be taken to court for it.
Get an advocate. There are firms and practitioners who specialize in resolving medical debt who can work with you to help you find the best way to settle your debt without ruining your finances.
Apply for a hardship loan. Depending on your income bracket and financial situation, you may qualify for a hardship exemption.
Bankruptcy. Because medical bills are considered unsecured debt, filing for bankruptcy can alleviate medical debts, though this does carry personal consequences on your credit score, your ability to obtain a future loan, and even denial of tax refunds.
There are many ways to free yourself from medical debt and the strain of a court Summons. You must find the one that works best for you and your circumstances. Don't allow collectors or medical facilities to corner you into doing things their way without first exploring and understanding all your resources.
Let’s take a look at how to fight off medical debt collectors.
Example: Jason is being sued for a medical debt in North Carolina. After doing some investigating into the debt, he realizes that he hasn’t made any payments on it for more than three years. Since the North Carolina statute of limitations on medical debt is three years, debt collectors have no right to take Jason to court for it. He uses SoloSuit to draft and file an Answer where he uses the statute of limitations as a defense. The case gets thrown out.
Consider reaching out to the collectors to reach a settlement for a lower amount.
Review your bank accounts frequently to monitor if the collectors are trying to garnish your wages to pay off the debt.
If you fail to respond to a complaint filed against you in the given time, a default judgment may be filed against you. While this does alter your course of action, you still have options. There are many ways to legally protect yourself and your assets:
Prove you did not receive documentation from the court or from the medical facility about the outstanding medical debt.
Provide evidence that you had reason to believe that your health insurance company had paid or would pay the medical bill.
Challenge the judgment on grounds of error, mismanagement, or excusable neglect.
Pursue debt relief by filing for bankruptcy.
Let’s take a look at another example.
Example: Martha is being sued by a debt collector for a debt she doesn’t recognize. She uses SoloSuit to respond. In her Answer document, Martha denies all the claims against her. The debt collection agency realizes they’ve made a mistake and have contacted the wrong person about the debt. They dismiss the case voluntarily, and Martha is off the hook.
Use SoloSuit to respond to your medical debt lawsuit
If you’re being sued for a medical debt, use follow these three steps to respond to the lawsuit:
Respond to each claim listed in the Complaint.
Assert your affirmative defenses.
File the Answer with the court, and send a copy to the opposing attorney.
These three steps are tried and true. They can increase your chances of winning in court. To learn more, watch this video:
Having a judgment filed against you is not an ideal situation, but it still provides avenues for you to find relief. As with the other cases mentioned above, your best defense will be a proactive approach of clear and frequent communication between you, the medical facility, your insurance provider, and your legal counsel to find an agreeable way to resolve your debt.
There are times when we cannot control what happens to us. While those situations can be painful and emotionally draining, what happens next does not have to be. No matter what your financial situation may be or what actions may be taken against your medical debt, you have options.
Don't let an emergency overwhelm you. Remember your rights, your resources, and reasonable next steps to avoid the pitfalls of a medical debt suit.
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.
Respond with SoloSuit
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It only takes 15 minutes. And 50% of our customers' cases have been dismissed in the past.
"Finding yourself on the wrong side of the law unexpectedly is kinda scary. I started researching on YouTube and found SoloSuit's channel. The videos were so helpful, easy to understand and encouraging. When I reached out to SoloSuit they were on it. Very professional, impeccably prompt. Thanks for the service!" – Heather