There are fewer situations more stressful than getting sued for medical debts that you owe. This is especially true if you are on the hook for thousands of dollars that you cannot afford to repay.
Consider these recent statistics about medical debt in America.
- One-fourth of the families in America are struggling to pay medical debt.
- Medical debts are the primary cause of bankruptcy filings.
- Each year, approximately 10 million people accumulate medical debt that they cannot afford to repay.
As you can tell from these startling facts, medical debt is the root of many financial problems for American families. If you are facing unpaid medical bills consequences such as a medical debt lawsuit, you are not alone.
Before you throw your hands up in despair and ignore the lawsuit, take some time to develop a strategy that will help you effectively handle the situation. The following tips can help you get through this trying time.
Face the Lawsuit Head-On
Getting a notice from your local court that you are being sued can cause your thoughts to race about 100 miles per hour. When you are in this frenzied mental state, it may be difficult for you to think rationally.
Your first inclination might be to tuck the lawsuit papers neatly in a drawer and ignore them. If you pretend the medical debt lawsuit does not exist, it will go away. Right?
Not a chance. When a lawsuit has been filed, it means that there is a pending court date whether you face it or not. You must attend, or you will forfeit your right to represent yourself.
Resist the urge to bury your head in the proverbial sand. Ignoring a lawsuit gives your debt collector the advantage. If you miss the court date, the debt collector wins by default.
Get Legal Representation
The first thing you should do is contact an attorney to help you sort through your options. Local licensed attorneys understand the complexities of civil law in your state, and they can help you develop a clear plan of action.
You might be hesitant to hire an attorney because of the costs associated with good legal representation. However, you might be surprised to learn that hiring an attorney is not as expensive as you think.
In this economy, it is understandable that getting the money to pay for an attorney might be nearly impossible for you. If that is the case, you can contact pro bono (free) legal aid societies to find an attorney who is willing to take your case.
Whether you plan to hire an attorney or go it alone, it is always a good idea to weigh your options. You might find that the benefits of hiring an attorney outweigh the financial expenditure.
Research Information About Civil Suits in Your Area
So, you have decided to handle the matter without an attorney. If that is your decision, you are in good company. Thousands of people handle their medical debt lawsuits without a lawyer.
Before you plead your case in front of a judge, you must do your homework as it relates to civil lawsuits. Whether you have a lawyer or not, the judge will expect you to be able to present a good case.
Using the information in the library and the internet, make every effort to find out as much as you can about the legal proceedings in your jurisdiction. Most judges will look negatively at your case if you are not adequately prepared to defend your interests.
Determine the Origin of the Debt
Your medical bill may have originated at a doctor’s office or a hospital. After the debt is not paid, many medical facilities charge off the debt as uncollectible. When this occurs, the debt is often sold to a third party.
It is important for you to determine the exact nature and origin of the debt. You can contact the debt collector to get an itemized bill of the charges that the company claims that you owe.
Once you review the information, you might find that the information is inaccurate. When you go to court, you can share your findings with the judge.
If the information is accurate, you should contact the debt collector to work out a repayment plan to avoid a judgment. Some creditors allow you to enter into an agreement that enables them to get a default judgment if you do not repay the money as agreed.
Learn Your Rights
Whatever action you decide to take, never let fear prevent you from becoming informed about your rights. Believe it or not, there are laws that uphold your rights as the defendant in a civil lawsuit.
Your primary right is that you must be properly served notice of the impending lawsuit. This means that the debt collector must deliver the court papers to you at your correct residence.
There are legal recourses that you can take if you have been improperly served. Contact an attorney to determine how you should respond if you were not served properly.
Get Assistance from a Medical Advocate
Medical bills are notorious for having many types of errors and inflated expenses. If you do not know how to accurately assess your medical bill, you might not be able to identify mistakes. For assistance with reading your medical bill, it might be a good idea to hire a medical advocate.
Medical advocates understand billing codes and laws that govern a medical facility’s billing practices. To find a medical advocate to review your charges, contact the National Association of Healthcare Advocacy Consultants.
Consider Filing for Bankruptcy Protection
Although you might not consider yourself to be the ‘type’ of person who files bankruptcy, it might be a good idea to consider this option. Most people are one major illness away from a financial calamity. Financial insolvency does not mean that you are a bad person.
Filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy might seem like a negative thing to do, but there are a few benefits of this debt relief strategy.
- Your medical debts will be discharged, and you will no longer owe them.
- The Chapter 7 bankruptcy process is fast. It takes approximately 100 days to complete your bankruptcy case.
- You will be able to eliminate financial stress from your life.
- Bankruptcy can eliminate wage garnishments, bank levies, and other collection efforts.
Although filing for bankruptcy protection can be a financial relief, you should contact a local bankruptcy attorney for guidance. Bankruptcy can have long-term financial consequences.
Proactively dealing with a medical debt lawsuit can alleviate unpaid medical bills consequences. Apply these tips to help you navigate through your medical debt lawsuit.