What to due if I am being suedover unpaid bills?

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What to due if I am being suedover unpaid bills?

A lady dropped off summons at my friend’s house yesterday and told her not to worry about getting it to me. A collections agency is trying to sue me. One bill I owe I didn’t even knew I owed them money, and the other I had a payment plan set up on and I was not informed it would be going to collections or anything. They are both medical bills that total only $400, yet they are trying to sue me for an additional $500 in legal fees. I don’t know what to do, I can hardly afford to pay my rent and other bills. I don’t know if I can afford a lawyer or if it would even be worth it.

Asked on August 22, 2011 Washington

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Your only options are to fight, to pay, to settle,  or to not fight and then either hope they won't take action if you seemingly have no money or perhaps file bankruptcy if they do.

There may be grounds to fight the attempt to make you pay, such as if the papers are not served on you properly, or if you can show you don't owe the money. Or you can partially fight it--for example. legal fees would generally only be collectible if the agreement under which you received the medical services provided for the imposition of legal fees. (Normally, the party suing does not get lawyer costs.) Therefore, you can look to the service agreement, anything else you signed, etc. and see what they can in fact sue you for.

A lawyer would be very helpful; if can't afford one, try contacting Legal Services--they provide free legal assistance to qualifying people.

You can also try to settle with them--is there an amount you can pay? A payment schedule you could make? If so, try reaching out to the crediitor, if you believe the debt is fundamentally valid.

The most important thing is, unless you intend on simply trying to not pay, hoping they won't take action (or again, filing bankruptcy if they do--though bankruptcy over  $900 is not recommended), you can't ignore the summons and complaint--ignoring the legal action, court dates, etc. means you will lose automatically (by default).


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