After any car accident, it’s imperative to seek medical treatment. This not only ensures you have the best chances of making a full recovery, but it serves as proof of injury in the event you choose to file a car accident claim against the party you believe caused your crash.
When you’re in the process of taking legal action to seek recovery for your losses, it’s likely you’ll receive medical bills from the hospital that treated you after the wreck. Even if you inform them of your legal matter, it’s possible they could send outstanding bills to a collection agency. If that happens, it’s important to know how bill collectors are handled while filing a car accident lawsuit. First, let’s take a look at the laws that protect you.
Understanding the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act
While some states have their own law regarding debt collection practices, Mississippi does not. Because of that, only federal laws apply. The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) protects consumers against overly aggressive debt collection actions by bill collectors and debt collection agencies. It was enacted in 1977 to limit the behavior and actions of third-party debt collectors looking to collect money on behalf of a person or entity.
Under the FDCPA, bill collectors are not allowed to contact you before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m., tell anyone you owe money, threaten you with criminal charges, harass you in any way, use false names to obtain information, or contact you if you notify them in writing not to.
Ways Bill Collectors Break the Law
Debt collectors can be hard to handle. There are times where they’re so focused on checking people off their list, that they’ll result to illegal collection practices to harassment tactics including:
- Calling you repeatedly at an unreasonable time.
- Contacting you without informing you that they’re a bill collector.
- Contacting you at work if your employer prohibits it.
- Using profanities or threats of violence.
- Claiming you owe more than you do.
- Telling you you’ll be imprisoned, or your property will be seized.
- Pretending to be an attorney.
- Sending you paperwork that appears to be a legal document.
- Contacting third-parties to discover your whereabouts.
If you believe a bill collector contacting you is engaging in illegal activity, tell them to stop contacting you. Under the FDCPA, you have the right to send a letter to the collection agency requesting they cease all communication with you. Make sure you document any of the behaviors we discussed above, as you can use them as proof of illegal activity when you file a complaint.
Complaints are filed with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). If it comes down to it and you’re subjected to repeated abusive behavior from a bill collector, your lawyer can help you file a lawsuit to recover financial losses you experienced, and compensation related to any fines they are required to pay for violating the FDCPA.
Tips for Staying Out of Collections After a Car Accident
Even with the laws in place to protect consumers, it’s important that you do your part in informing the necessary parties of what’s going on. This will, hopefully, ensure you don’t have to worry about a collections notice. Your lawyer can make sure you stay vigilant with your medical bills, so everything is dealt with properly while you’re waiting for your compensation.
Remember to stay in touch with your claims adjuster. Your lawyer can help you with this. To ensure medical bills are being paid or properly put on hold, contact your claims adjuster every 30 days and make sure there are no issues with late payments. If you do have a late payment or receive an overdue notice from the hospital that treated you, inform your attorney and the adjuster immediately. They’ll help you contact the facility and sort the matter out, so it’s not sent to collections.
It’s also important to stay organized. Keep track of what’s been paid out of your own pocket and make copies of all bills and statements you receive. If you keep track of your expenditures related to the car accident, your legal representative will have a better idea of what you’re owed from the party that caused your car accident.
If, at any point, you receive a notice from a collection agency, send a copy to your insurer and the law firm that’s representing you. Never ignore a collections notice, as you could run into serious financial problems and affect your credit.
Get Help From Pittman Roberts & Welsh, PLLC
When you come to us with a car accident claim, we’ll fight to ensure you receive the compensation you need to recover. When bill collectors try to make your life more difficult, there are laws that protect you and steps we can take to ensure you aren’t harassed. If you have questions about debt collection during a lawsuit, contact us for more information.