Medical Bill Debt Collection Practices
Medical Bill Debt Collection Practices
Medical debt can happen to anyone at any time. No one ever plans to get sick and require an expensive treatment they cannot afford, but it does happen. As a result, people often have questions about Virginia law on paying medical bills and medical collection practices.
What Can You Do If Debt Collectors Will Not Stop Calling About Your Medical Debt?
It can be very frustrating when you are doing your best to pay down medical debt, but the debt collectors are not satisfied. Sometimes people tell us that they receive multiple calls a day or that creditors even bother them at work. In these situations, it is helpful to know your rights. The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act applies in Virginia, as well as state laws that apply to debt collection. You should know that:
- Debt collectors are not allowed to contact third parties about your debt. Your lawyer, your spouse or co-debtors, credit reporting agencies, and the creditor do not count as third parties. They can contact third parties in an effort to reach you or learn where you are, but they cannot state that they are trying to collect on a debt.
- Debt collectors are not allowed to call at “inconvenient” times. This may vary depending on your personal schedule, but in general, the collector should not be calling before 8 AM or after 9 PM.
- A debt collector should not call you at work, if you are not allowed to receive these kinds of calls. If you do receive a collection call at work, tell the person calling that you are at work and are not allowed to take personal calls, and they should not call again. If they continue to harass you at work, please contact an attorney and let them know.
- Once you have engaged an attorney to assist you with resolving your debt, you can tell any debt collector who calls that you have retained a lawyer for this matter. Debt collectors are not allowed to contact you if they know you have an attorney.
- Debt collectors cannot behave in ways that amount to threatening, harassing, or abusive to you. Generally this means they cannot threaten you or others with harm or violence, use profane or abusive language, offer your debt for sale to the public, call you excessively, or make multiple calls to you without identifying themselves as a bill collector.
- There is a rule that debt collectors are not allowed to make seven calls to you within seven consecutive days, unless you consented to these calls, the call did not go through, or they are calling your attorney or another professional involved in the process.
- Debt collectors are not allowed to lie or mislead you. For example, they cannot claim to be from a law enforcement or government agency like the FBI or IRS if that is not true. They also should not say that you could be charged with a crime or have your possessions seized if this is not true (there are only very select situations where it is possible). Other examples of misleading you include giving a fake business name, mailing you an official-looking document that appears to be from a court, or claiming to work for a credit bureau. Of course, the reality is that most people have no way to know if the caller is lying about any of these things. For that reason, we suggest that you tell the debt collector you will speak to your attorney about what they just said, ask for their contact info so your lawyer can get back to them, and then call an attorney.
- Debt collectors should not contact you through social media in a public way, such as by commenting on one of your posts. If they use direct messages to contact you, they are required to tell you they are collecting debt.
- There are a number of “unfair practices” that debt collectors are forbidden from using. This includes placing anything on the outside of an envelope that indicates the correspondence is about debt collection, communicating by postcard, or adding interest or fees not expressly outlined in the original debt contract. The difficulty with the last point is that many people no longer have the original contract, or it is written in complicated legalese that the average person cannot interpret on their own. If you have received additional fees or interest that you do not remember agreeing to, we recommend speaking with a lawyer to find out if this is legal.
- Other rules may apply in some specific situations, and your attorney can take over communications with debt collectors to relieve you of the stress.
What is the Virginia Debt Collection Statute of Limitations?
In most cases, a debt collector is required to pursue an action for a debt within six years of the due date. This includes accelerated due dates; which will be six years from the accelerated date.
What is the Virginia Debt Collection Act and How Does it Affect Medical Debt?
If your medical debt stems from certain public health institutions, the Virginia Debt Collection Act has rules about how it can be collected. Specifically, there has been findings against the Virginia Commonwealth University Health System Authority and the University of Virginia Medical Center (UVA) used “extraordinary” debt collection measures without first making an effort to determine if the patient qualifies for Medicaid or other assistance programs. Between 2012 and 2018, numerous UVA lawsuits against patients over unpaid bills led many people to bankruptcy and other financial distress. If you are currently dealing with a UVA debt collection, please contact our law firm to learn your options.
Further, Virginia Courts have found that there can be a defamation claim for debts demanded that are not owed.
How Can a Lawyer Help with Your Medical Debt Collection Issues?
A lawyer can be very effective at getting the collection calls to stop. First, we will go over all your medical debt, and other debts if your medical bills have caused you to fall behind elsewhere. We will look at other options for payment, if available. For example, if your healthcare bills are the result of a car accident in which another driver was at fault, we may be able to seek compensation from that driver’s liability insurance under Virginia law. In some cases, we can make a claim on your own auto insurance as well.
Next, we can compare the debt collector’s practices with Virginia Debt Collection Act and the federal regulations to ensure the debt collector has not violated any laws. In some instances, the calls you have received may be illegal. Often it is helpful to provide the lawyer with call logs, emails and any other correspondence received from the debt collector for the consultation.
We can help with obtaining debt forgiven and/or setting up a realistic payment plan with the creditor. In many cases, the creditor will agree to take a smaller amount of compensation or accept lower monthly payments as an alternative to a bankruptcy claim in which they might not receive anything. In a few situations, bankruptcy may be your best option. We are not a bankruptcy firm and cannot advise you on bankruptcy options.
Contact a Medical Bill Debt Collection Attorney Today
If you have questions or concerns about your medical bill debt, please contact Lugar Law right away for a free consultation. We will be happy to answer your questions and explain the possibilities for addressing your debt and getting those collection calls to stop.