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Category: Helping Hands Blog
Published: Wednesday, 08 January 2014 12:30
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Stressed out lady

How to Handle Debt Collectors

Many people living with disabilities are faced with costly, ongoing medical treatments. A typical surgery can run upwards of $50,000. Even simple procedures can run one or two thousand dollars. Due to these high costs many people find themselves receiving unwanted phone calls and letters from debt collectors. However, how you handle the collectors may make the difference between going to court over a debt and working out a settlement.

The first step in any medical debt negotiation is to consistently pay on the debt as soon as the first bill is received to develop a history of paying even if the payment is only $10 or $20 dollars. After about 90 days the account will be transferred to a collections agency.

You should always be polite, nice and respectful when a debt collector calls. Understand that the collector is only doing their job. They have to make a living to pay their bills too. Furthermore, the bill they are calling about is a legitimate bill. It is one that was created when medical care was rendered and although charges may seem very high, an agreement was signed when the care was given that the bill would be paid.

In most cases a debt collection company desires to have a bill completely paid within six months to one year and will attempt to set up a payment plan to accomplish that purpose. Remember that most medical procedures will result in bills owed to several entities. For instance, a trip to the ER may result in a bill from the hospital, another from the doctor and another from a radiologist. Keep all of these bills in mind when agreeing to any payment plan as each will require a payment every month. Never agree to a payment plan that is higher than you can afford and it may be best to not agree to a plan at all but simply state that you will continue to pay every month as much as you can just like you have been doing. (This is where the payment history is important.)

Here is a secret weapon! Most bankruptcy attorneys will provide a free consultation. A person who is in debt (over $10,000) and under a limited income should visit an attorney. In many cases the attorney will recommend chapter 7 bankruptcy under which the medical debts will most likely be eliminated by the court. If the attorney recommends chapter 7, it is often wise NOT to file because in some states a person can file for bankruptcy due to medical bills only one time. If the bills are ongoing or it is likely there will be more medical procedures then it is probably prudent to wait on filing. (Disclaimer: It is against the law to incur debt with the intention of filing bankruptcy to cancel that debt.) But here is why you visited the lawyer: now when a debt collector calls you can advise them that the debt level is so high that a visit was made to a bankruptcy attorney and chapter 7 was recommended. Remind the collector that if any bill from any collector goes to court then chapter 7 will have to be filed and all debts for every party will most likely be eliminated. Since the collector knows they will lose all chance of collecting their money, many will then accept any reasonable payment that is made as long as it is paid every month. The collector may make the statement that the monthly payment you have offered ($10 or $20 per month) is unacceptable and that they cannot accept it, but don't cave in and agree to a higher amount under any circumstances if you cannot afford that amount.

Other common sense advice to follow when dealing with a collector is to never discuss details about finances. They will ask for your income, bank account and credit card and other personal information. This should never be provided. Information that should be provided is the staggering amount of debt and the fact that you are living on disability benefits or have no income and are unable to work. Therefor you will pay them every month as much as possible.

Debt collectors are paid by collecting debts. Many collectors are not paid if the debt is uncollected. The bottom line is that if they feel they can get more money from you by going to court they will do so. However, if going to court will cause them to lose all money, most will begrudgingly cash the checks that come their way, even if it takes years for the debt to be paid. Again, the key is to send the collector money every month, politely talk to them every time they call. Become a friend to the collector. After all, they will probably call you more often than your real friends!


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About the Cochran Firm Disability Lawyers

Recognized as one of the nation’s premier law firms, The Cochran Firm handles cases on behalf of clients seeking a Personal Injury Lawyer, Criminal Defense, Medical Malpractice, Bankruptcy Attorney in Atlanta or Social Security Disability Lawyer.The Firm can be reached at 1-800-THE-FIRM (1-800-843-3476) or fill out the form on this page. “Working for You.” Article by Benjamin A. Irwin, Esq.

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