If I went to the hospital 5 years ago when I was only 17 and was still under my parents care at the time, do I have to pay medical bills now that I am over the age of 18?

I was still in high school and living with my parents but now have almost $600 of medical bills showing up on my credit report and bill collectors wanting me to pay it.

Asked on October 16, 2015 under Bankruptcy Law, Alabama

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

In most, if not all states, a minor lacks the capacity or legal ability to enter into a contract. Therefore, you should not pay the bill; you are not legally obligated for  debt incurred as a minor even though you have now reached the age of majority.  That having beens said, there is a remote possibility of your having some responsibility for this debt based under the legal theory of "unjust enrichment". So since you benefited from the services the provider should receive the reasonable compensation for the value of those services. However the creditor would have to sue in court asserting unjust enrichment and thi probably wouldn't happen unless the amount owed is quite large.
At this point, you can respond to the creditor demanding to see proof of the debt and an explanation as to how a minor child can be bound to a contract that they did not expressly enter (that would likely be enough to get them to back down); the creditor must respond within 30 days and it could likely end the collection efforts since you will not be party to the contract. Then send a letter mentioning the FDCPA (Fair Debt Collections Practices Act) and demanding the creditor cease all correspondence/communication regarding this debt. If they persist in its collection, you should consider contacting your attorney general’s office and/or contacting an attorney who would take on the case on a contingency basis (attorney’s fees and related costs can be collected under the FDCPA).
Note: Your parents are probably are not off the hook here; they are likely still responsible for the bill.


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