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Do My Medical Debts Expire?

Emergencies happen, and medical emergencies generally come with a very high price to be paid. They are unavoidable, and yet so expensive. It is very easy to snowball into deep debt because of steep medical bills that catch us off guard.

Even a short hospital stay can add up to thousands of dollars quickly. This is overwhelming and can be detrimental to our bank accounts.

However, medical debts have a statute of limitations. This means that there is only a certain amount of time that creditors can request the court to force you to pay your medical debts. If you are aware of this, you may be wondering when and if your medical bills will expire. Will you have to pay? The court will not point out these limits for you, but rather it is your responsibility to prove that they have expired.

So, how do you know if your debt is time-barred, and what does this mean for you? We have the answers!

First of all, it is important to understand that you will still be obligated to pay. This debt will not magically go away. Also, unpaid bills do remain on your credit report. These typically stay anywhere from seven to ten years. Specifically, unpaid medical bills usually stay on your report until you pay, your insurance pays, or you reach a settlement in court. Thankfully, the unpaid medical bills should not affect your credit scores.

If your debts are indeed expired, you should be successful in preventing creditors from being able to get a judgement on you in court. The debts are still your responsibility, but the time limits will prevent you from being sued by creditors.

Each state in our country has its own specific statute of limitations. Check your particular state to see how many years the court will force you to pay your debt. On average, it is usually around three to six years, but some states (such as Rhode Island) require as long as 10 to 15 years. Depending on how many years have passed, and what your state’s requirements are, you may be less inclined to pay.

When checking your state’s statute of limitations, it is important to understand that there are different types of debt. The specific category that your debt falls under determines how long the state requires payment in court. There are oral agreements, written contracts, promissory notes, and open-ended contracts (such as credit cards). Most medical debt falls under written contracts, because patients typically sign and fill out agreements at the beginning of their hospital stay. Determine which category your debt falls under to see specific requirements you must meet.

Most states require an average of 5-6 years for written contracts (like most medical debt). During this time, creditors have more leverage in court to receive payment from you for your debts. After this time expires, your debt is officially time-barred. Although you still have to pay, you can no longer be sued.

Remember, the debt you owe will be your responsibility until the day that you die. Check your specific state to see how long you can be held accountable in court.

About the author

Emilie Burke

Emilie is a politics-major turned data engineer. She graduated from Princeton University in 2015 and from Smartly with her MBA in 2016. She lives in North Carolina with her college sweetheart Casey who is currently stationed at Fort Bragg. She enjoys eating food, cuddling with her dog, and binge watching HGTV. She blogs at Burke Does. You can find her around the web at @emilielimaburke.

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