Can You Go To Jail For Not Paying Medical Bills?

If you’re like millions of Americans, you probably had an emergency or medical condition that needed attention and so you went to a hospital for treatment. After leaving the hospital, you may have received a very pricey medical bill. So, can you go to jail if you do not pay your medical bill? We will answer this question in much detail below.

Can You Go To Jail For Not Paying Medical Bills?

No, you cannot go to jail for merely not paying medical bills because medical bills are considered as a civil debt and you cannot be sent to jail for failing to pay a civil debt. The only two debts that you can go to jail for not paying are your tax payments and child support payments. However, if the amount of medical bills that you owe is very large, the hospital that you went to has the option of filing a lawsuit against or selling the debt to a debt collector who may sue you in civil court to recoup the debt owed in the form of unpaid medical bills.

Although you cannot be sent to jail for merely not paying medical bills, aggressive debt collectors have tactics that they can use to put you in jail, and we will explain them below.

In some states, debt collectors are trying to put people in jail by suing them in civil court for the outstanding medical bill debt that they owe. After suing you in civil court, you are given an opportunity to appear in civil court to dispute the debt that you owe.

If you do not appear in court, a civil judgment will be entered against you, allowing the debtor to request to garnish your wages (take money from your paycheck without your consent). However, if you do not have income, debt collectors have been known to request a debtor’s examination.

If the court order you to attend a debtor examination’s hearing and you do not show up, you can be arrested for failing to obey a court order. So, although you cannot go to jail for not paying medical bills, you can go to jail for violating a court order to appear for a debtor’s examination.

To avoid going to jail, attend the debtor examination’s hearing, and defend yourself. Also, if you’re summoned into civil court because the hospital itself sued you for unpaid medical bills or a collection agency sued you for the unpaid bills, you should answer the summons. Ignoring a court summons will only land you in more trouble. If you have the resources, hire an attorney to represent you for the best possible results.

Summary of What Can Happen If You Don’t Pay Your Medical Bills

  1. Your outstanding medical bills can be sold to a collection agency
  2. You may have to pay interest on the unpaid medical bill debt
  3. Your credit score could be significantly damaged if the debt is reported on your credit report
  4. You can be sued for the unpaid medical debt
  5. Your wages can be garnished until your medical bills are paid

How to Handle Medical Bills That Have Been Sent to Collections?

If you did not pay your medical bills, the hospital that you went to may sell the unpaid debt that you owe them to a collection agency. A collection agency will then try to collect the debt from you by relentlessly calling you and placing a collection account on your credit report.

A collection account can cause significant damage to your credit score, often causing a drop of up to 100 points.

If your medical bills have been sent to collections, you should verify the items you have been charged for and ask the collection agency to verify the charges in writing so that you have a record of the debt they’re attempting to collect.

If you believe that you’ve been overcharged for certain items when you went to the hospital, you should contact an experienced medical debt defense attorney or service provider to deal with the collection agency on your behalf.

The right attorney or debt defense service provider may be able to have the amount of money that you owe drastically reduced. Medical debt and health insurance laws are very complicated, so having someone on your side who knows the system will be greatly beneficial to you.

Can A Hospital or Medical Provider Threaten You With Jail If You Do Not Pay Your Medical Bills?

Federal law and most states have laws in place that prohibit hospitals and medical providers from threatening you with jail or criminal prosecution if you do not pay your medical bills as agreed. So, if a debt collector calls you and threatens to prosecute you, you should report it to your State’s Attorney General.

However, do not forget that although you cannot be sued for failing pay a medical or hospital bill, if you’re sued in civil court and you’re ordered to show up in court, you should not ignore the court order as this may result in an arrest warrant being issued for you and you being sent to jail.

So, to avoid going to jail, don’t ignore the collection attempts, talk to your medical provider or collection agency and ask them about payment options. If you believe that you have been wrongfully billed for items, you should bring that to their attention and ask them for a reduction.

What Should You Do If You Have Unpaid Medical Bills?

If you have unpaid medical bills, you should do the following:

  • Do not ignore the medical provider or collection agency if they contact you
  • Do not ignore court notices
  • Do not ignore court orders to attend hearings
  • Consult with an attorney and ask them how to proceed
  • If your medical debt is too large, consult with an attorney about filing for bankruptcy

Statute of Limitations For Being Sued For Medical Debt

Usually, the time that a medical provider or collection agency has to file a lawsuit against you for failing to pay your medical bills is limited from 3 to 6 years. Every state has a different statute of limitations (SOL) barring lawsuits. So, if you want to know if the statute of limitations bars your medical providers from filing a lawsuit against you, you should check your locals laws.

That said, even though the statute of limitations may bar medical providers or collection agencies from collecting debt, this may not stop the medical provider and collection agency from constantly calling you and mailing letters, attempting to collect the debt that you owe.

Credit Score Planet Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can you go to jail for medical bill debt?

No, you will not go to jail for merely failing to pay medical bill debt. However, if you’re sued and ordered to go to court, you could be sent to jail if you violate the court order by failing to appear.

2. Can I settle a medical bill after I receive a court summons?

Yes, you can settle a medical bill at almost any time so long as the other party is willing to settle the debt.

3. Can a hospital sue you for unpaid medical bills?

Yes, a hospital or any other medical provider can sue you for failing to pay your medical bills. If they’re successful in their lawsuit, they may be able to garnish your wages until they’ve recouped the amount of money that you owe them.

4. What happens if you don’t pay medical bills?

If you don’t pay your medical bills, your debt may be sold to a collection agency or you may be sued by the medical provider for the balance that you owe. If your debt is sold to a collection agency, the collection agency will attempt to collect the debt from you and they may place a collection account on your credit report, which could cause significant damage to your credit score.

5. Should I pay medical bills in collections?

Paying debt is always preferred over not paying. However, if a collection account was placed on your credit report, whether you pay it or not, it will continue to negatively impact your credit score.

6. How can I get my medical bills off my credit?

Once a collection account for a medical bill is added to your credit report, it cannot be removed unless there is inaccurate or incorrect information being reported. Once a collection account is added to your credit report, it will remain on your report for seven years from the date that you became delinquent on making payments.

7. What happens if my medical bills go to collections?

If your medical bill goes to collections, the collection agency will relentlessly attempt to collect the debt from you and they will place a collection account on your credit report, causing significant damage to your credit score.