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Summoned to Court for Medical Bills — What Do I Do?

Hannah Locklear | April 11, 2024

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 George Simons, JD/MBA

George Simons
Co-Founder of SoloSuit
George Simons, JD/MBA

George Simons is the co-founder and CEO of SoloSuit. He has helped Americans protect over $1 billion from predatory debt lawsuits. George graduated from BYU Law school in 2020 with a JD/MBA. In his spare time, George likes to cook, because he likes to eat.

Summary: You can get sued for unpaid medical bills. Top respond, you must be proactive. Draft and file an Answer into the case, learn about your consumer rights, and use SoloSuit for assistance. You can also settle your medical, even after a lawsuit has been filed.

Getting sued for unpaid medical bills can be an intimidating and overwhelming experience. You are probably getting multiple phone calls and correspondence from a debt collector seeking repayment. Then, they drop the proverbial hammer and file a lawsuit against you. In the blink of an eye, you are now confronting a legal battle where you have been summoned to appear before a judge in court. If you find yourself in this situation, you need to be prepared, proactive and possess a general understanding of your legal rights.

Respond to a summons for medical debt.

File a written Answer to defend yourself.

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Can you be sued for medical bills ?

Yes, you can be sued for unpaid medical bills. Either the medical provider will sue you, or they'll sell the debt portfolio to a debt buyer who will contact you about the debt before taking legal action.

Let's take a closer look at both these options.

Hospitals can sue you for medical bills

If you have unpaid medical bills, the accounts department of your chosen medical facility will probably try to contact you for the outstanding amount. If they do not recover payment, the accounts department will probably wind up assigning your account to an internal collection department.

The hospital may end up selling the medical debt to a debt collection agency if the debt is extremely overdue. The collection agency usually purchases these overdue medical accounts for less than the amount due. You might be tempted to ignore a collection agency you don't recognize when they contact you about a past due medical bill. Be careful; collection agencies purchase medical debts often.

A collection agency might sue you for medical bills

Basically, a debt collection company can purchase your debt portfolio at a discounted rate to acquire the rights to collect on it. Once acquired, the company will then do all they can to try and recover on the outstanding medical debt. You might even notice your credit score decrease when the agency reports the debt to the credit bureaus.

The debt collection agency will likely try, on multiple occasions, to contact you. If you do not pay, then the debt collection company will probably escalate the matter to a lawsuit. Here's everything you need to know about responding to a medical debt lawsuit.

Respond to the Summons for medical debt

When you are sued for a medical debt, you should receive a court Summons and Complaint. These are legal documents that notify you of the lawsuit and list all the specific claims against you. The first step to winning a medical debt lawsuit is to draft and file an Answer document in the court. Here are three steps you should to take to respond to the lawsuit and win:

  1. Answer each issue listed in the Complaint: Your Answer document should include a list of responses to each allegation listed in the Complaint. Each response should either admit (like saying, this is true), deny (like saying, prove it), or deny due to lack of knowledge (like saying, I don't know).

  2. Assert your affirmative defenses: After you have responded to each issue in the Complaint, you should add a section to the Answer document where you assert your affirmative defenses. "Assert affirmative defenses" means give reasons for why you shouldn't lose the lawsuit or why you don't owe the debt. Some common defenses include the following: the debt is past the statute of limitations on debt, the debt has been paid or excused, you were eligible for Medicaid but never received assistance, or the hospital failed to generate a proper bill, according to your insurer (if applicable).

  3. File the Answer with the court and serve the plaintiff: You have 14-30 days to file your Answer with the court, depending on which state you live in. You must also send a copy of the Answer to the attorney of the plaintiff (hospital or debt collection agency). If you fail to respond within the deadline, a default judgment may be entered against you.

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

You can learn more about these three steps by watching the video below. SoloSuit's founder explains how to respond to a debt lawsuit in detail, and these steps apply to medical debt lawsuits:

File a Motion to Set Aside Judgment if a default judgment is entered against you

Failure to respond to the Summons and Complaint means that the hospital or debt collection company will likely file a motion asking the court to enter a default judgment against you. With a default judgment, the hospital or collection agency can garnish your wages, seize your property, and freeze your bank account in order to collect on the debt.

If you find yourself in this situation, you can try filing a Motion to Set Aside Judgment. This motion asks the court to reverse the default judgment and give you another chance to respond to the Complaint. In order to have your Motion to Set Aside Judgment granted, you would need to prove one of the following:

  • You did not receive any documentation from the court or from the hospital about the medical debt
  • You reasonably believed that your health insurance company paid the outstanding medical bill, or bills.

Having a default judgment entered against you is not optimal and puts you in a weak position when attempting to negotiate with the hospital or collection agency. This is why a better option is to be proactive and respond to the debt collection lawsuit. In order to file an effective response, take advantage of the resources and information available through SoloSuit.

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.

Respond with SoloSuit

"First time getting sued by a debt collector and I was searching all over YouTube and ran across SoloSuit, so I decided to buy their services with their attorney reviewed documentation which cost extra but it was well worth it! SoloSuit sent the documentation to the parties and to the court which saved me time from having to go to court and in a few weeks the case got dismissed!" – James

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Settle a medical debt collection lawsuit

If you've been sued by a debt collections agency over a medical debt, your chances of settling are really good. Like we mentioned, debt collection agencies often purchase old debts for a small percentage of the original amount (sometimes, even less than 10%). This means that you can offer to pay off 50% or less of the debt, and the collection agency would still make a profit. Here are some tips for negotiating a settlement that's ideal for you:

Tips and tricks for negotiating a debt settlement

To learn more about these tips, check out this video:

You can settle a medical bill even after receiving a Summons

You might think all hope is lost after finding out you're being sued. But there is still a chance to settle, even after you've received a court Summons. But this isn't true!

Follow the tips and tricks listed above to reach an ideal settlement. Most importantly, though, make sure to wait until after you've filed an Answer to the lawsuit to negotiate a settlement.

Often, debt collection companies will make a settlement agreement with you, and just when you think you're in the clear, go behind your back to file a default judgment in the court. For this reason, make sure to file your Answer so that all your bases are covered.

Important takeaways on what to do if you are sued for medical debt

Here are some key points on what you need to do if you are served with a debt collection lawsuit for unpaid medical bills:

  • Respond to the Complaint and see if there are viable defenses to challenge the veracity of the lawsuit
  • If an adverse judgment is entered against you, consider reaching out to the debt collector to try and negotiate a lower settlement amount.
  • Review your different checking and savings accounts since there is a chance a debt collector could try to garnish your wages or extract funds from your bank accounts.

Best of Luck!

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