If you have no property other than exempt or protected property, you may be what we refer to as "judgment proof". What this means is that even if you get sued and a creditor takes a judgment, the judgment creditor may not be able to seize any of your assets to collect on the judgment.
You'll be happy to know that we do not have "debtor's prisons" anymore in this country so even if you owe "bank of the universe" money, they can't throw you in jail. I urge you to go talk to a bankruptcy lawyer near you because although you may not be thinking about bankruptcy now, he or she can tell you what your options are and what to expect should you eventually be sued and what you can do about it. Most bankruptcy attorneys offer a free consultation.
This answer is for informational purposes only and may not be relied upon as legal advice.
First, a collection agency is big blowhard. I personally think they are a creditor's biggest waste of money because they can't do anything but aggravate a debtor.
Having said that, most states (I can't be sure of this) do not allow a collection agency to sue in their own name. They can only recommend back to the originating creditor to sue you in the creditor's name.
One purpose of suing you now is that a judgment is valid for up to ten years (in most states) and can be renewed for additional ten years (in most states). A judgment can last for a long time. You may be judgment proof now but you may not be later. Also, in most states, obtaining a judgment allows for wage garnishment which can be very problematic for you.
But, jail is NOT an option. We do not have debtors' prisons anymore. The judge will not order you to pay anything. It is is up to the creditor to seize assets that are non-exempt in order to satisfy the judgment.
You would do well to consult with a local lawyer to put yourself at ease.
By answering this question, general information is provided and no attorney-client relationship is established. For specific inquiries, you should consult with experienced counsel in your area.
There is no possibility of jail for unpaid medical bills. You have a number of options to help relieve you from the debt. You can try to negotiate a lump sum settlement, sometimes for as little as 25% of the amount owed. You can try to beat the debt collectors on technical grounds, send them a debt validation letter and request that they cease collections. Sit back and document any violations in state or federal collections laws and argue that they have waive the debt. You should not be dismissive about bankruptcy, debt collectors (as well as some debt relief agencies) routinely scare consumers away from filing bankruptcy citing the fact that it could damage your credit rating for several years. Unfortunately, if you are behind on your bills and swimming in debt, chances are good that your credit rating may already be damaged. Bankruptcy will probably not make things any worse. The fact that you filed bankruptcy, if properly explained, may be less damaging than a history of unpaid accounts. The fact that you have filed a bankruptcy will appear on your credit record for ten years. But since bankruptcy wipes out your old debts, you are likely to be in a better position to pay your current bills, and you may be able to build new credit. Still other options exist
I have some more information on my webpage: http://www.crawfordlaw.org/blog/understand-the-debt-relief-tools-available-to-you/
Stew Crawford, Jr., Esq.
Crawford Law Firm
A Full Service Law Firm Serving Individuals and Families in Pennsylvania and New Jersey
223 North Monroe St.
Media, PA 19063 (Philadelphia Area)
There is no debtor prison in Pennsylvania. If it is only money owed, then the creditor could try to obtain a monetary judgment against you but would still have to execute on your bank account and/or personal items in order to collect. You need to make sure that you file a response if a lawsuit is filed. I do not know all of the facts, but I do not believe a judge would be able to order a payment plan unless it is a criminal matter and it does not sound like one. You can ask the collection company to stop calling you and only communicate in writing. Pennsylvania is very debtor friendly and some people are truly judgment proof. You need to take this matter seriously, but I think you might be worrying a little more than you need to.
Noah Paul Fardo, Esq.
Flaherty Fardo, LLC
This response is written for entertainment purposes only. It should not be relied upon for legal advice, and in no way does this answer create an attorney/client relationship. We only represent individual(s) once there is a signed representation and fee agreement in place. Please visit our website to read our full disclaimer. http://pghfirm.com/