How do I proceed after being sued by doctor for medical payments?
Sued by doctor what next?
Recently on our legal forum we had a debtor ask, "What do I do if I have been sued by a doctor? I have received a summons, but I do not believe I owe some of the charges on the bill?"
Steps to settle medical debts
1. Respond to the summons
The most important thing you should do if you have received a summons is respond. Ignoring the summons will not make it go away. When you respond, you must respond to the summons with an answer, and the answer must be sent to the court where you have been sued within the designated time frame.
What happens if you do not respond to the summons? Not only will the court rule against you, the collection agency will have more legal options to collect debt. For instance, in some states, they may be able to garnish your wages or levy money from your bank account.
Next, call the court and verify with the court clerk that the case has been filed and it is active. Ideally, you would have tried to resolve this debt before the case went to court so you could have dealt directly with the doctor and hospital, but now that a case has been filed you are most likely dealing with a collection agency who has much less of an incentive to negotiate with you. With that in mind, however, you may still be able to contact the collection agency and see if they are willing to negotiate.
If they are willing to negotiate, you should expect to offer a fairly large percentage of the debt. For instance, they may not negotiate for less than 50 to 80% of the full debt payment. If you cannot pay with one lump sum payment find out if they are willing to accept monthly payments.
2. Challenge the lawsuit
If you decide to challenge the lawsuit in court you may want to talk to a lawyer. Not only does a lawyer understand the laws and how to fight lawsuits, the collection agency may also be more willing to settle if they know you have legal representation.
Whether or not you hire a lawyer, however, you may have several possible defenses you can use to challenge the lawsuit. For example, you can challenge the debt collector's right to sue either by proving the statute of limitations has expired or that the collector does not have the standing to sue. If the statute of limitations to collect the debt has expired or the collector cannot prove they have the standing to sue, the judge may dismiss the case.
Next, you can also ask them to offer proof of the balance from the account. In some cases the debt collector's documentation will not include any original paperwork and may be insufficient to prove you owe the debt.
Another option is proving the collection agency has violated the provisions of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. If you can prove the debt collector violated the law, you may be able to counter sue them. If you win your case against them you may be entitled to statutory damages of $1000, plus punitive and economic damages.
3. File for bankruptcy protection
Your final option is to consider filing bankruptcy. Bankruptcy should only be considered if you have no other option and you cannot repay the debt. Talk to a bankruptcy lawyer about your options for discharging the debts by filing bankruptcy.
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