What is the statute of limitations on medical claims?

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What is the statute of limitations on medical claims?

My wife of 2 years received a medical bill last month for a hospital stay that occurred seven years ago. No attempts had been made to collect on this since her initial visit. Now it had been turned over to their lawyer for collection. Are we obligated to pay?

Asked on April 24, 2012 under Bankruptcy Law, Kansas

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

It appears to be the case that the debt is too old to be enforced against your wife. There is something called a "statute of limitations"--this is how long someone has to bring a legal action to enforce a claim for money. The statutory period differs by the reason for the claim, and each state has its own statutes of limitation. In Kansas, the statute of limitations for contracts (such as an agreement to pay for medical services) is at most 5 years; that means that the creditor (e.g the hospital) or its debt collector(s) must bring a legal action within 5 years of when your wife first failed to pay on time.

The above said, there are sometimes exceptional circumstances that allow extra time to sue (called "tolling" the statute). If a lawsuit is in fact filed against  your wife, retain an attorney to help you. If the suit is overdue and past the statutory period, the lawyer should be able to get it dismissed quickly; and if it's not, you'll want a lawyer to defend you, anyway.


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