A new state law prohibits creditors from using wage garnishment and property liens to collect past-due medical bills.

Lawmakers made this move as many people struggle with medical debt and aggressive medical creditors. Since 2015, these creditors have filed almost 5,000 home liens and 50,000 civil suits in an attempt to collect this debt. “These cases do little to stabilize a hospital’s finances, but can have devastating financial consequences for the patient,” New York Governor Kathy Hochul said in a statement. 

The problem is most pervasive upstate. For example, over 20 percent of Oswego County residents have delinquent medical debt, while sixteen other upstate counties have between 16 percent and 23 percent delinquency ratings.

Medical Debt Collection

100 million Americans struggle with medical debt. A significant number of these families have more than $10,000 in medical debt. This debt is an issue for these families, and it’s also an issue for doctors who usually turn over unpaid bills to debt buyers within a month or so. Debt buyers, who paid some money upfront to get the right to collect this debt, are extremely aggressive. Tactics like property liens, wage garnishment, and adverse reports to credit agencies are just the beginning.

Many creditors use even more aggressive means. They often impersonate law enforcement officials or use other such tricks to collect money. These tricks are illegal under federal law. Unfortunately, that doesn’t prevent creditors from using them.

Crippling medical debt forces many families into bankruptcy. In fact, unpaid medical bills are the leading cause of consumer bankruptcy filings in the United States. Desperate families often see bankruptcy as the only way out in these situations. Fortunately, in most injury-related situations, a New York personal injury attorney can hold the tortfeasor (negligent actor) responsible for medical bills and other damages.

Injury-Related Medical Debt

Many of the large medical debt situations mentioned above involve injury-related medical bills. In a serious injury case, these bills usually exceed $100,000. Serious injuries include:

  • Head Injuries: Car crashes are the most common cause of head injuries in New York. Head injuries are permanent; once brain cells die, they never regenerate.
  • Broken Bones: If doctors must use metal parts to reconstruct shattered bones, as they usually must do, surgery is more expensive and physical therapy is longer. Additionally,  broken bones usually means some permanent loss of motion.
  • Internal Injuries: Since internal organs have no protective skin layers, the slightest abrasion causes serious internal bleeding.

In an extremely catastrophic injury case, like a spine injury, the lifetime medical bills could exceed $5 million.

Generally, health insurance companies refuse to pay these bills, citing liability concerns. So, accident victims could be left holding a very large financial bag.

Obtaining Compensation for Injury-Related Medical Bills

Until a New York personal injury attorney steps in, injury victims are financially responsible for injury-related medical bills. Once an attorney proves negligence, or a lack of care, a tortfeasor (negligent party) is responsible for these bills, as well as car repairs and most other injury-related expenses.

A negligence case begins with a legal duty. Most drivers and property owners have a duty of reasonable care. Drivers must obey the rules of the road and property owners must ensure their properties are safe. 

Drivers breach their duty of care when they speed or drive aggressively. They also breach their duty when they drive while fatigued or otherwise impaired.

Damages in a negligence case not only include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills. These damages also include compensation for emotional distress and other noneconomic losses.

For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in New York, contact Napoli Shkolnik.