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Anyone who's been injured or sick enough to spend time in a hospital knows that those visits aren't cheap. Beyond the bills for tests, procedures, and overnight stays, you might be missing out on pay from work. And this combination can lead to you owing the hospital a significant amount of money.
So what happens when a hospital (or a debt collector) files a lawsuit to get paid?
Receiving a complaint and legal summons is a scary prospect, even if you don't think the hospital debt is legitimate. Most of us don't envy the prospect of going to court, even if we're right. But the last thing you want to do is ignore the complaint. A failure to respond to the complaint could forfeit certain defenses or otherwise negatively affect your case.
You should review the complaint thoroughly -- it will generally list the defendants (you and possibly a cosigner), the amount owed, and any efforts to secure payment. If any of this information is wrong, you'll want to note it for your response to the complaint.
Answer and Response
Depending on state law, you will have 20 to 30 days to file a response to the hospital's complaint. Most responses are fairly straightforward -- you will either admit or deny the claim, and the answer is your opportunity to assert any legal defenses to the debt or potential counterclaims against the hospital.
This is where an experienced attorney might help. Not only can a lawyer spot legal issues and defenses you may miss, but the failure to assert certain defenses or counterclaims in the initial answer to a complaint may forfeit them down the road.
Defenses to Hospital Debt
You can dispute the debt, based on a variety of issues. It's possible the hospital miscalculated the amount you owe, or you've already paid it back. Or there could be a procedural problem, like a provision saying the dispute must be settled through arbitration, or that the lawsuit was filed after the statute of limitations expired. And if you've been sued by a debt collection agency, there may be issues with how the debt was transferred from the hospital.
A good lawyer will be able to spot these issues, and more, and aid in your defense. If you've been sued for a hospital debt, you should contact an experienced attorney today.