What do I do if I have paid a medical bill, but it gets turned over to a debt collector and ends up on my credit report?
“What do I do if I have paid a medical bill, but it gets turned over to a debt collector and ends up on my credit report?”
We don’t send zero dollar bills to a debt collector.
So if it has gone to a collector, then something has gone wrong and it may very well be that the debt collector has violated the FDCPA (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act) law.
“How will I know if a paid for medical bill has gone to a collector?”
If it has gone to a collector you may get a letter in the mail or you may get a phone call. You say, “Woah, wait a minute. I paid that MRI or that co-pay or whatever it is. I’ve paid this. Please go away. Don’t call me or bother me again.”
If it’s a genuine, honest debt collector they’ll say, “Oh, I’m so sorry. We didn’t mean to collect the debt that’s already been paid,” because that’s illegal.
(Now sometimes they want proof and generally that’s a good idea to send — there are exceptions if you are dealing with a dishonorable collector you may not want to send personal information but in general you can send the proof of payment).
Honest and authentic debt collectors don’t continue to collect after you show them the bill was paid. Honorable debt collectors will never bother you again and certainly won’t credit report on you.
“But what if the debt collector keeps calling or credit reporting?”
What do you do if the debt collector continues bothering you?
When we look at the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), in order for it to apply we need to meet three requirements:
- We need to have a consumer, not a business, but a consumer.
- The debt has to be consumer debt, not a business debt.
- Finally we need a debt collector, not the original creditor.
I’m going to assume you are a human and not a business getting medical care. 🙂
So we meet the first requirement.
The FDCPA applies to a medical bill because it’s considered a personal debt.
And we are not talking about the original hospital or imaging center, etc. — instead we are talking about a third party debt collector.
“So how does collecting a paid for debt violate the FDCPA?”
This debt collector is trying to collect a debt that you do not owe, which violates the FDCPA in several ways.
First, it is a lie or a misrepresentation. The collector says you owe the bill. True or false? Well, if you paid it, then this is false.
Second, the collector is being unfair. Is it fair or unfair to collect a debt that is not owed? Unfair. Does the contract you entered into with the medical facility allow a non existent debt to be collected? Absolutely not as that is absurd. Same thing with collecting the debt — it is absurd.
“So what should I do if I get collected on when I already paid the bill?”
Just the fact that they sent you a letter, they call you on the phone that violates the law. First time it happens, you probably say, “Hey, look. I don’t owe this debt. Please leave me alone.”
If they continue to collect it, you either say, “I’ll just accept that they’re doing this to me and they are ruining my credit, making my phone ring, sending me letters” or you’ll sue.
Just letting them harass you and destroy your credit is not a good option in my opinion.
The other option is you sue them because you’ve already told them, “Look, guys. I’ve paid this debt. Go away.” If they continue to come after you, then obviously telling them that again won’t do much good. You sue them in federal court which gets their attention very quickly. 🙂
Now, every situation is different.
“What does a federal court lawsuit against the collector do for me?”
It does several things:
- Makes the collector leave you alone
- You can get money damages
- You can get your attorney fees paid for
- In addition, you can get your credit report corrected
You need to meet with a lawyer and find out if it makes sense to sue in your particular situation. Often times, this is the best answer because then these guys will understand when they get a copy of that federal court lawsuit that you’re being serious when you say, “Leave me alone. I paid this debt. Do not collect this from me.”
When they’re sued, they know that you mean business and then they’ll leave you alone. In addition to leaving you alone, they have to write you a check if you are successful in your lawsuit.
They violated the law and damaged you.
Typically, this is our solution — we sue these abusive collectors.
It’s amazing how quickly they will come and go, “Oh, oh, oh. We’re sorry. We’re sorry. Now, let’s make it right.” when you sue them. It’s amusing, because it never should have gotten to that point but if that’s the way they want run their business where they say, “I’m going to wait until I’m sued before I’ll do the right thing,” so be it. We can deal with their silly business practices.
It is no problem to sue them. When I was first starting out practicing law in the mid 90s, I had a case that would not settle and an experienced judge said to me, “Mr. Watts, that’s why we build these big courthouses and they give me the black robes for when lawsuits and trials are needed.” Sometimes this is what’s needed so give the collectors what they need.
Hope this was helpful to you!
Feel free to contact us at 205-879-2447, or click here to fill out a contact form and we will be glad to get in touch with you — we represent consumers all over Alabama.
Have a great day.