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Judgements and being taken to small claims court from a collection agency for medical bills.

Salem, OR |

I am being threatened by a collection agency to be sued for 2000.00 in unpaid medical bills. This bills are almost a year old and we have an unsteady payment history on this debt(although, we have paid $1200.00 on this account). The problem is is we can only pay what we can pay. They want us on a $900.00 payment plan. We missed our last two payments of $450.00 each. They will probably try to sue us now. We haven't yet received notification. If they do sue us is it possible to pay them off in lieu of having our wages garnished? We are going to be coming in to money to pay off all of our bills in May. They just can't wait for it. Do we have any recourse? What if we send a smaller amount?

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Attorney answers 2


Communicating to them is a good way to resolve this issue. You state that the bills are legitimate, and if they are most bill collectors will want a hefty payment but will settle for an amount. Even if a judgement is gotten against you, collecting that amount is usually different. A wage garnishement or payment order will be brought up as the next step. It sounds like you will have the money to pay them -- communicate that fact to them and frankly, May is not that far away and if you have a court date it likely will not go to trial until sometime in May.


Generally, as the debt seasons (ages), you will find that collection agencies become more and more reasonable with their settlement offers. There is no magic formula, but in my experience, debts that exceed 3 years in age are often settled at 30%. Also, collection agencies threaten lawsuits as a standard practice, but only a moderate percentage of those threats are actually carried out. Do not be threatened into taking action that would cause you significant burden and worsen your situation.

If you are in fact sued and are properly served with notice, you may not have any viable defenses against a judgment. But remember that no wage garnishment for a consumer debt may exceed 25% of your wages (lower in some States, but higher for child support claims). If a judgment is taken, minimize your bank account balances to reduce the risk of bank levy, and do not share information with your creditor about your employment, assets, or banking relationships (unless ordered by a Court, of course). After judgment is taken, most creditors are willing to work out a payment plan, as most would rather collect your money through voluntary proceedings than chasing you through involuntary efforts, such as garnishment, levy, and debtor deposition.

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