Posts Tagged ‘debt collection’

Do I need to pay the hospital bill?

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

I was in court yesterday and had the opportunity to listen to a number of cases where the hospital was bringing legal action against people for non-payment of hospital bills.

One was a very sad case where a woman had died and the hospital had filed suit against her son for payment of her bill.  As I’ve discussed before, children are not normally responsible for the payment of their parent’s bills.  However, in this case, the son had signed the hospital admittance form agreeing that he would be personally responsible for the bill.

There were also a number of cases where people said that they were still in discussions with the insurance company about how much the insurance company would pay.  Again, the people had signed the admittance forms saying that they would be responsible for payment.

You can pay a hospital bill yourself, even if you have insurance and a claim has been submitted.  If  you have already paid a bill and the insurance company then sends money to the hospital, you can talk to the hospital about getting a refund.  I’ve never personally seen a case where the hospital has refused to send a refund when a bill was overpaid.

Hiding from the bill and hoping it will go away isn’t really going to help you much.  Most hospitals that I have seen will work with you on a payment plan if you can’t afford to make the entire payment all at once.  This will help eliminate the legal fees that the hospital will pass on to you if they have to go to court to get payment.

Generally, by the time the hospital brings you to court for non-payment, your account is what is commonly called ‘seriously past due’ and the normal insurance payment process has not covered the costs and it is very likely that the costs will not be covered.  If you really think that the insurance company should have paid the bill and they did not, then your fight is with the insurance company, not the hospital that provided the care.

Bottom line?  If you sign the paperwork saying that you will be responsible for the bill, then it is your obligation to pay.

If you are not able to make any sort of payment arrangements, perhaps it is time for you to talk to an attorney about bankruptcy.

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at

Someone owes me money, how do I get it? part 3 — collecting the debt

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

Once the court has granted you a judgment, you now need to collect on that debt.  You and the debtor may be able to come to an agreement about payment, which will be the easiest way to get your money.

You may want to hire a ‘debt collector’ who will handle this part for you and who will know the laws and follow the rules of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).

Another option is to collect the debt yourself.  As long as you are collecting a debt that is owed to you personally and you are doing things yourself, using your own name, you are not bound by the rules of the FDCPA.  However, even if you don’t need to follow all of the rules, you might want to consider reading over the FDCPA rules on what can and can’t be done to collect a debt or you might find yourself in front of the judge on a harassment charge.

You might be able to get a court order to tell a third party that they need to give you some money that would normally be given to the debtor.  This process is called a ‘garnishment’ and there are rules about how much of the debtor’s funds may be given to you.

The most common type of garnishment is when a debtor garnishes the wages of the debtor and a portion of the debtor’s wages are paid to the creditor instead.  There are rules about garnishment of wages and limits on how much of a person’s wages can be withheld.

You might also be able to garnish the funds in the debtor’s bank account.   Again, there are special rules about what can be garnished.

You may also be able to force the debtor to give you some of his or her personal property to satisfy the debt.  This process is started by filing ‘Debtor’s Interrogatories’ which is a process in which the debtor needs to appear and tell you about the assets he or she owns, where those assets are located, and how much each of those assets are worth.  Sometimes these are ‘big’ assets like a house or a car, and sometimes these are smaller assets like a TV or a watch or a ring.

Once you know what assets are available, you can ask the court to have the sheriff seize and sell the assets and give you the money from the sale.

Or, you might be able to put a lien on the asset which means that if the asset is ever sold, you will be paid before the debtor receives his money from the sale.  Of course, this works best for assets like a home or a car where you have the ability to record your lien and where the record is reviewed before the sale is completed.

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at

Someone owes me money, how do I get it? Part 1 – Warrant in Debt

Sunday, April 1st, 2012

A number of people call me when someone owes them money and they don’t know how to get paid.

If the amount of the total debt is under $25,000 I suggest that people go to the General District Court and file a ‘Warrant in Debt’.  This is how you start the process in Virginia.  The ‘Warrant in Debt’ is a form that lists the person who owes you the debt, the reason they owe the debt, and the amount of the debt.  There is a fee for the filing of this form with the court, and there is a fee to have the form given to the alleged debtor by a Sheriff.  You can also use a private process server, but in Virginia having the document served by the Sheriff is less expensive.

And yes, you can add the cost of the fees for the ‘Warrant in Debt’ to the total amount owed.

The ‘Warrant in Debt’ needs to be served on the person who owes you the money and you and the debtor must show up in court on the designated ‘return date’.  At the hearing on the ‘return date’, the judge will ask the debtor if he/she agrees that they owe the money.  If they say ‘yes’ the judge will enter a judgment for that amount and you now have a legal piece of paper saying they owe you the money.

If they dispute the claim for the money, the judge will set a date for a trial where you need to prove how much is owed and why.  They will, of course, try to prove that they don’t owe the money.  This trial is in front of the judge and after hearing all of the evidence and testimony from both sides, the judge will make a decision as to whether or not they money is actually owed.

If the debtor does not show up at the hearing, you can ask the judge to enter a ‘judgment’ for the amount you had entered on the form.

If you don’t show up for the hearing, the judge will generally dismiss your case.

Usually, if the debtor shows up at the hearing and disputes the amount, he/she will ask for ‘pleadings’ which include the ‘Bill of Particulars’ that you will need to provide to the debtor with a copy to the court, and a ‘Grounds of Defense’ which will be provided by the debtor to you and to the court.  The judge will give you due dates for these documents and you will need to make sure that these documents are received on time or your case can be dismissed.

There are parts of this process that you may be able to do yourself.  You can read about why you may need a lawyer here.

If you have any questions about this or any other legal subject, please feel free to give us a call at 757-234-4650 or visit our website at