In September I was served with a summons for a debt from a collection agency regarding an 8K medical bill. I answered the summons, did some research and found that the medical center never filed a claim with the insurance company despite having my information. They sent this “self pay” 8k balance to the collection agency who is now suing me for that amount, and then filed the claim with my insurance company and collected the payment *after* I was served the summons and the suit was filed.
I brought this to their (the medical center and the plaintiffs) attention and didn’t hear from them for several months. 2 days ago, I received an ER 904 notice – a letter stating they are submitting an itemized statement of the services I received in the hospital as evidence against me along with a ...
a trial date. I haven’t objected yet, but I will. I called again today with the check reference number from my insurance company and the hard proof that the medical center had been paid, trying to get this resolved. The medical center said I still owed my co-pay (no problem, I’ll pay that) but that I still needed to pay the 500+ in lawyer and court fees to the collection agency, who by the way is still taking me to trial for the 8K. Furthermore, when they served the summons, I wasn’t home, so they left it with a friend, they have entirely misrepresented the amount I owe, they have not furnished any proof of owning the debt, and I’ve had to take time off of work and school (I’m a full time student) to handle this, so I’ve lost significant money because of this. Do I have the right to counter sue them? If so, should I? Will I be responsible for the attorney fees when it wasn’t even my fault that it went to the collections agency to begin with?
Administrative Law Lawyer
I recently handled a nearly identical case as yours. You have several issues here.
First, you should file a claim for the medical bills with your insurance carrier immediately and also contact the medical center's billing department and inform them of their error. You must demand that they submit the bill and also that they notify the debt collector of their error. You should also review the paperwork you signed when you obtained the medical services to see what it says about who is responsible for the medical billing ultimately - the medical center's billing department should be able to provide you with that.
Second, the attempts to collect a debt are generally governed by the Washington and Federal Fair Debt Collections Practices Act. A state violation of the FDCPA is also a per se violation of the Consumer Protection Act. The FDCPA requires a debt collector to observe certain things. Accordingly, you need to write to the collection agency and formally dispute the bill. Thereafter, the collection agency is required to notify any persons, including credit bureaus, of that fact when communicating credit information regarding you. You also should demand that the hospital and the collection agency immediately validate the debt that it they are attempting to collect upon. I have found that medical centers and debt collectors are quite anxious to resolve matters once the CPA and FDCPA are mentioned.
I suggest you complain simultaneously to the Attorney General's Office on Consumer Fraud. They have an online complaint form.
Third, I would have an attorney write an Answer to the Summons and Complaint you have recieved. If you fail to respond, the plaintiff may recieve a default judgment, further complicating your situation.
Last, you question the matter of the way you were served the Summons. This too is a matter to discuss with an attorney.
Personal Injury Lawyer
Service of process must usually be made "to the defendant personally, or by leaving a copy of the summons at the house of his or her usual abode with some person of suitable age and discretion then resident therein". If the person who received the Summons & Complaint was not a resident of your usual abode, then you may be able to have the suit dismissed for failure of service of process. It would probably be better if you had an attorney working for you.
It appears as though the insurance should definitely pay the medical bills.
[In accordance with the community guidelines of Avvo, this is not "legal advice", nor does it form an attorney-client relationship.]