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I have $4,000 in bills from an ER that didn't provide me services. I've disputed the charges, to no effect. Recourse?

San Francisco, CA |

My daughter sustained a large cut on her face. We took her to the closest emergency room, and were told that there would be a 2 hour wait before the ER doctor could see her. Due the the severity of the wound and length of the wait, we opted to leave the ER (#1) and drive to a different ER (#2), where we had the procedure performed immediately by a plastic surgeon.

To reiterate: at ER #1, we signed in, were told by the doctor about the long wait, and signed back out. We received no care, no medication, no treatment. However, ER #1 has billed us for nearly $4,000 of "emergency room charges."

Steps we've taken so far:

1) opened a dispute. Result: dispute denied; no change in bill.
2) requested an itemized breakdown of the charges in writing. Result: no response.

What recourse do we have?

Attorney Answers 3


  1. Have You Physically Gone To Hospital #1, To The Billing Dept. And Spoken To A Supervisor? Another Option, Which I Would Do After The Frustration You've Encountered IS To Contact The Office Of The CEO Of The Hospital Both By Telephone And Mail (Certified/Return Receipt OR Priority Mail With Delivery Confirmation). I Have Found This To Be Very Effective. sometimes Getting A News Outlet Involved Can Be Helpful As Well

    Disclaimer: The foregoing answer does not create an attorney-client relationship with Attorney Cannella or her firm. This answer does not constitute legal advice, is provided for informational and educational purposes only for persons interested in the subject matter, is not legal opinion, nor confidential in nature. Each situation is fact specific and may be subject to state specific laws. Without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue it is impossible to evaluate a legal problem fully.


  2. The medical bill should be disputed in writing, with proof of delivery by U.S. Certified Mail, return receipt requested. See the sample letters on my other website, which I have put in the link below. Sample letter 1.1 and 1.2 are for disputing with a debt collection agency, but you can also use it to dispute with a creditor, as California law has protections for consumers from false bills by creditors.

    Collecting a false bill would violate the Cal. Rosenthal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (CRFDCPA), for which you may be entitled to damages and attorney's fees, if it continues. You should also send the letter to any collection agency, if the bill is referred to it for further efforts to collect.

    I would also advise you to file a complaint with the CFPB, the federal bureau that was recently created to protect consumers, and is looking very carefully into false debt collections. A link to them is below. There may be a California agency to which you should also complaint, such as the Department of Insurance or whatever agency licenses this medical provider in California.

    In your letters, keep it factual as you have indicated. The fact that you have a bill for the same issue at another medical provider shows that they did not handle this matter and you had it handled elsewhere. This false bill may also be fraud and a violation of the Consumers Legal Remedies Act. You may eventually need to retain an attorney to deal with this, as I predict that they will start reporting this on your credit reports.

    Robert Stempler (please see DISCLAIMER below)
    www.StopCollectionLawsuits.com
    www.facebook.com/SoCalConsumerLawyer
    Twitter: @RStempler

    NOTICE: The above statements are provided for general information purposes only and are not intended as legal advice or advice of any sort for a specific case or legal matter. If you do not have a signed attorney-client fee agreement with the Consumer Law Office of Robert Stempler, APC ("the Firm"), then until such written fee agreement is provided and signed by both a prospective client and attorney for a particular case, neither Mr. Stempler nor the Firm will represent you nor will they be your attorney in any matter and you remain responsible for retaining your own attorney and for compliance with any and all deadlines and for any statutes of limitations that may pertain to potential claims. Comments made on a public forum, such as Avvo.com, to not have any confidentiality because others may read them. If you desire a private consultation with Mr. Stempler that is confidential, please go to www.StopCollectionLawsuits.com and submit a free eCase Review. The result portrayed for a client was dependent on the facts of that case. Results will differ if based on different facts. The Firm and Mr. Stempler are a debt relief agency. The Firm and Mr. Stempler help people file for bankruptcy relief under the Bankruptcy Code.


  3. Check your credit reports. For free at annualcreditreport.com. Do not pay for any of the services that the agencies try to sell you; just get the credit report that is free. If this account shows up on your credit reports (there are 3), dispute this, in writing. If the account remains, you may have grounds to sue and to recover your attorney's fees.

    If you credit has not been damaged, you have no basis for suing unless the creditor tries to sue you, or commits some other violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.