Dave Says: Change tactics

Dear Dave,

I recently had a judgment filed against me for an unpaid, old hospital bill. Is it possible to negotiate things with the lawyer? Originally, the charges were $2,700 but now they have increased to $3,500, and I am not sure why the amount has risen. I have made several phone calls asking him for a detailed statement of the account, but all I have received is a payment booklet. What is your advice?


Dear Ronnie,

Are you sure you’ve been speaking directly to the lawyer? I’m guessing the reason you haven’t gotten a real answer to your question is because you’ve actually been talking to some low-level staffer or paralegal. If you have been talking to the lawyer, there’s a pretty good chance he’s running a small debt collections or debt lawsuit machine. If this is the case, he probably gets a piece of whatever he collects. That means he’s out to collect as much as possible, as quickly as he can.

You might consider changing tactics, and see if you can talk to the hospital administrator. Propose giving them $2,000, or whatever reasonable amount you can afford, on the agreement that the hospital accept it as payment in full. Hospitals and doctor’s offices are often some of the easiest folks to work with when it comes to paying off debt, but people have to be proactive and make an honest, good faith effort to make it happen.

There’s a moral, as well as legal, responsibility involved when it comes to paying off bills or debt, Ronnie. You should always pay what you owe if at all possible.

— Dave