February 7, 2024

Medical Debt Statute of Limitations by State

Medical Debt Statute of Limitations by State ZumaZip settle Debt

The statute of limitations on medical bills ranges from three to ten years, but it varies by state. Even if the statute of limitations on your medical debt has expired, the debt can still affect your credit score for up to seven years. If you’ve been sued for medical debt, use ZumaZip to draft and file an Answer to increase your chances of winning by 7x.

If you are being sued by a debt collector regarding unpaid medical bills, it is important to determine the age of the outstanding medical debt. Why? Because you may be able to use the statute of limitations as a defense to get the debt collection lawsuit thrown out of court.

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What is a statute of limitations?

The term “statute of limitations” refers to the time period that an individual or company has to file a legal action. In other words, creditors and debt collectors only have a certain number of years to sue someone for a debt they owe before the statute of limitations prevents such action.

When it comes to medical debt, the statute of limitations typically becomes an issue when a debt collector is attempting to recover on a bill that has been deemed “unpaid” for years.

It is important to understand that the courts do not track the statute of limitations. Instead, the responsibility falls on the defendant (i.e. you) to raise the statute of limitations as a defense and affirmatively request that the collection lawsuit be dismissed due to the expired statute of limitations.

The statute of limitations can be an effective tool in getting a debt collection lawsuit dismissed, if applicable. However, it is important to understand that even if the medical debt is beyond the statute of limitations, it does not mean the debt is wiped away from your records. It simply means the debt cannot be recovered through a lawsuit.

Even if you can no longer be sued for medical debt due to the statute of limitations, the debt can still stay on and negatively impact your credit report for seven years.

Use our Statute of Limitations Calculator to find your limit

Lots of people wonder what the limit is on their medical debt, so we built out Statute of Limitations Calculator to make it easy to find when the statute of limitations expires on your debt. Again, once it is expired, a collector can’t sue you for it and you can bring it up as a defense if they do. 

Unpaid medical debt can impact your credit

Medical debt, just like other types of debt, is listed on your credit report, including whether the debt is delinquent or current. As mentioned earlier in this article, the statute of limitations does not directly impact or influence the amount of time a debt can remain on your credit report and the impact it can have on your score.

When you have unpaid medical debt in collections, it will stay on your credit report for at least seven years. After seven years have passed, the debt may no longer be visible on your credit report, unless a debt collector pursues a judgment against you during that time period.

If you can repay a delinquent medical bill, that repayment should be updated on your credit report and taken out of the collections category. Depending on your particular situation, you may be able to have the medical debt deleted entirely from your credit report. This is common when someone is wrongly sued for a medical debt they do not owe.

If you’re negotiating with a debt collector, confirm that steps will be taken to update the status of the account on your credit report before you agree to make a payment.

If you are being harassed by a debt collector or were served with a Summons and Complaint, related to unpaid medical bills, it is important to determine the age of the debt so you can assess whether a statute of limitations defense is viable. The relevant statute of limitations for your particular matter will depend on the state in which you reside and the type of medical debt you purportedly have.

Let’s consider an example.

Example: Sandy is being sued by a debt collector for an old medical debt in Delaware. After investigating the debt, Sandy discovers the last payment made on the delinquent account occurred more than four years ago. Since the statute of limitations on medical debt is three years in Delaware, the statute of limitations could be raised as a viable defense to challenge the debt collection lawsuit. Sandy uses ZumaZip to respond to the lawsuit. In her Answer document, Sandy lists the expired statute of limitations as one of her defenses, and the case gets dismissed. However, the debt will still affect Sandy’s credit score until seven years has passed from the date it appeared on her credit report.

The statute of limitations on medical debt is different in every state

It is important to understand that there is no general, one-size-fits-all statute of limitations. Therefore, the statute of limitations on your debt is determined by the laws of the state in which you reside.

Each state legislature enacts its own set of statutes related to different types of legal actions, including the collection of unpaid debts. In most states, the statute of limitations to collect on unpaid medical bills is between three and six years. However, in some states, a creditor has between 10-15 years to try and collect on the debt.

In the table below, we’ve outlined the statute of limitations on medical debt in every state.

StateMedical Debt Expiration Deadline
Alabama6 years
Alaska3 years
Arizona6 years
Arkansas5 years
California4 years
Colorado6 years
Connecticut6 years
Delaware3 years
Florida5 years
Georgia6 years
Hawaii6 years
Idaho5 years
Illinois10 years
Indiana10 years
Iowa10 years
Kansas5 years
Kentucky10 years
Louisiana10 years
Maine6 years
Maryland3 years
Massachusetts6 years
Michigan6 years
Minnesota6 years
Mississippi3 years
Missouri10 years
Montana8 years
Nebraska5 years
Nevada6 years
New Hampshire3 years
New Jersey6 years
New Mexico6 years
New York6 years
North Carolina3 years
North Dakota6 years
Ohio6 years
Oklahoma5 years
Oregon6 years
Pennsylvania4 years
Rhode Island10 years
South Carolina3 years
South Dakota6 years
Tennessee6 years
Texas4 years
Utah6 years
Vermont6 years
Virginia5 years
Washington6 years
West Virginia10 years
Wisconsin6 years
Wyoming10 years

To learn more, check out our guide to the statute of limitations on debt in all 50 states.

The statute of limitations varies by the type of debt

It is necessary to determine not only the age of the debt but the specific type of debt that is attempting to be collected upon. This is because the applicable time limits vary depending on the type of debt. Here is an overview of the general categories of debt:

  • Contractual Debt – Virtually all financial obligations that require the signing of a contract are considered to be contractual debts. Many forms of medical debt are categorized as contractual debt.
  • Debt Based Upon a Promissory Note – A promissory note is generally considered to be a written agreement where you expressly agree to repay a specific amount of money via a set number of payments, at a specific interest rate, and within a specific period of time. Some medical debt falls into the promissory note category, particularly when someone takes out a personal loan to help pay for a medical procedure or treatment.
  • Debt From an Open-Ended Credit Account – Credit cards and lines of credit are considered to be “open-ended” accounts since the amount you owe, and the amount you have to pay back each month will fluctuate. Some people use credit cards to help pay for expensive medical procedures and treatments so it is possible for medical debt to accrue through this type of account.
  • Debt Through an Oral Agreement – Some debts can be made based upon a verbal agreement between two or more individuals. This rarely applies in the context of medical debt

Make the right defense the right way with ZumaZip.com.

Debt collectors may trick you to reset the statute of limitations

Many debt collectors, especially large debt collection agencies working on behalf of insurance companies and hospitals, are well versed in the statute of limitations. They routinely attempt to take advantage of consumers who may not have much knowledge about how the statute of limitations works and exploit it to their advantage. For example, if you make a payment on an old debt, it is important to understand that the new payment effectively resets the proverbial clock on the statute of limitations.

This is why it is fairly common for a debt collector attempting to recover on old medical debt to try and pressure you into making a fairly small, nominal payment towards the amount owed. The only reason they are asking for a small amount is to ensure the clock is reset for the statute of limitations.

Don’t let debt collectors trick you into paying an old debt. Respond with ZumaZip.com

Respond to a medical debt lawsuit

If you’ve been sued for a medical debt, you must respond to the lawsuit regardless of your state’s statute of limitations on the debt.

To respond to a medical debt lawsuit, you must file a written Answer into the case and serve the opposing attorney. You may think you have to hire a lawyer to represent you in your case. We’re here to show you how you can represent yourself in court and win.

Follow these three steps to respond to a debt lawsuit:

  1. Respond to every claim listed against you in the case. When you’re sued, you’ll receive court documents that outline each allegation against you. In your Answer, you should admit, deny, or deny due to lack of knowledge to respond to each claim (in corresponding order). Most attorneys recommend denying the majority of the claims, otherwise, the court may consider your admissions proof that you owe it all.
  2. Assert your affirmative defenses. These are any legal reasons that you shouldn’t be held liable for the debt in question. For example, an expired statute of limitations on medical debt is a great affirmative defense to use. If proven, the case will be thrown out.
  3. File the Answer before your state’s deadline. Once you’ve drafted your Answer, be sure to file it before the deadline to avoid a default judgment. You should also deliver the Answer to the opposing party’s lawyer.

ZumaZip.com can help you draft and file an Answer in all 50 states.

Let’s take a look at another example.

Example: Harry is being sued for a medical debt that is more than three years old in Mississippi. He uses ZumaZip to respond to the case. Since the statute of limitations on medical debt in Mississippi is three years, Harry uses this as one of his affirmative defenses in his Answer. He also denies most of the claims against him. ZumaZip files the Answer with the court on Harry’s behalf and delivers it to the debt collector’s lawyer. When the lawyer receives Harry’s Answer, she files a Motion to Dismiss into the case, ending it early.

To learn more about these three steps, check out ZumaZip.com

What is ZumaZip?

ZumaZip is a convenient solution designed to streamline your response to a debt collection lawsuit. Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect when you use ZumaZip:

Firstly, you’ll access our user-friendly web application, which guides you through the process step by step. You’ll be prompted to answer a series of questions related to your specific situation. Once you’ve completed the questionnaire, you have the option to either print out the finalized forms and mail them to the appropriate courts yourself, or you can opt to utilize ZumaZip’s services to file them on your behalf. Additionally, if you choose this option, an attorney will review your document for added peace of mind.

If you’re seeking guidance on how to effectively respond to a debt collection lawsuit, ZumaZip can provide the assistance you need. Feel free to explore our FAQs for more information on what ZumaZip has to offer.

What if I haven’t been sued yet?

If you’ve only received a collections notice, but not a lawsuit, the best way to respond is with a Debt Validation Letter. When a debt collector contacts you in any way, whether it’s by phone or mail, you can respond by formally requesting a debt validation with a Debt Validation Letter . This letter notifies the collector that you dispute the debt and forces them to provide proof you owe the debt. They can’t call you or continue collecting until they provide validation of the debt. This flowchart shows how you can use a Debt Validation Letter to win.

Get started with a Debt Validation Letter here.

How to Answer a Summons for debt collection in all 50 states

Here’s a list of guides on how to respond to a debt collection lawsuit in each state:

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Hey there! Facing off against a debt collector can feel like a daunting challenge, but fear not! We’re here to help you navigate through it all with our handy guides designed to assist you in beating every debt collector you encounter. Whether you’re facing a new lawsuit or dealing with a persistent collector, we’ve got your back. Stay positive, stay informed, and let’s tackle this together!

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