A study done by academic researchers in February of this year found that 66.5 percent of all bankruptcies were tied to medical issues — either because of high costs for care or time out of work. An estimated 530,000 families turn to bankruptcy each year because of medical issues and bills, the research found. Brad Parker says, “Most families do not have enough saved for a simple emergency, let alone thousands of dollars in unexpected medical costs.”
If you are having difficulty paying your debt after an accident, you can ask for a payment plan that allows you to pay the debt off in installments, or for payments to be postponed for the present and paid at an agreed date in the future. That doesn’t mean the bill collectors won’t start their attempts to get payment.
Parker says, “Debt collectors have restrictions on how they can pursue you for payment. They must stay within the law. When we represent a client, our team reaches out to them and lets them know that we plan to address the debt so collection efforts are diminished.”
WHAT DEBT COLLECTORS CAN’T DO
Harassment from a debt collector can come in many forms:
- Repeated phone calls
- Threats of violence
- Abusive or obscene language
Arrest you for debt
You can’t be arrested for a debt you owe to a debt collector. If a debt collector sues you over debt and you fail to show up in court, you may lose by default and be ordered to pay.
Come to your place of work
It’s illegal for a debt collector to show up at your workplace to collect payment. They are prohibited from publicizing your debts and showing up at your job to collect your debt counts. They may call you at work, though they can’t reveal to your co-workers that they are debt collectors. To stop these calls, ask the debt collector not to contact you at work.
Call you whenever they want
Collectors can’t call you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. You can also request that a debt collector stop calling or writing in pursuit of payment on a debt. However, your obligation to pay the debt remains.
Pursue you for debt you don’t owe
The debt collection industry is littered with inaccurate information. Incomplete or inaccurate documentation can lead a debt collector to pursue the wrong person for payment or pursue the right person for a debt he or she already paid. This issue isn’t uncommon, but it is illegal.
WHAT DEBT COLLECTORS CAN DO
While debt collectors can’t threaten you or mislead you, they can apply pressure to collect payment. This pressure may come in the form of frequent letters or daily calls.
Sue you for payment on a debt
Debt collectors can sue you for payment on a debt as a final effort to gather payment. These lawsuits often result in garnishment, bank levies or both, because most debtors don’t show up to court and lose by default.
Seek payment on an expired debt
All unsecured debts, like credit cards and medical bills, have a statute of limitations. After this date, the debt is expired. At that point, you can’t be sued for payment, but you still owe it. Debt collectors can seek payment on old financial obligations.
Sell your debt
A collector may resell debt it hasn’t been able to collect on or sell the remainder if only partial payment was made. So if one debt collector stops contacting you about a debt, don’t be surprised if another one starts. Get all payment agreements in writing so you can prove it later.
Negotiate what you owe
Debt collectors buy debts for pennies on the dollar, so they have a large profit margin if they collect the original amount owed. This gives them flexibility in negotiating payment from a consumer, which means you may be able to negotiate a settlement for 25 percent of what you originally owed. Get the agreement in writing so you have proof the debt was considered paid in full for the agreed-upon amount.
If you have any questions about medical debt or bill collectors, call Parker Law Firm at 817.440.3888 and we’ll be happy to assist you.
At Parker Law Firm, our experienced personal injury lawyers believe people matter. We are committed to our clients, not case numbers, and we believe in the power of the civil justice system. With years spent both representing accident victims and participating in the state legislative process, our founder, Brad Parker, has developed a deep understanding of the law and gained unique experience that helps him get results for his clients.