Parents can save themselves and their children a lot of headaches by understanding legal consequences of incurring medical debt for the treatment of their minor children.
If a medical bill for the treatment of a minor child is not paid by the parents, bill collectors sometimes try to collect payment from the children. There is not much of a legal basis for this practice since minors are not considered legally competent to enter into contracts. However, this doesn’t necessarily stop bill collectors from hounding young people over medical bills from their childhood. Additionally, even if a divorce agreement allocates a child’s medical debt to one of the parents, bill collectors may attempt to collect from or even sue the other parent.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) is the statute that governs debt collection practices. The FDCPA prohibits collection on debts unless there is an express agreement which created the debt, meaning a contract signed by the party from which a creditor is seeking payment. Without a written signed contract, a creditor may attempt to justify collection on the basis of an implied contract or unjust enrichment theory, since the minor benefited from the services, and therefore, the provider should receive payment for the reasonable value of those services.
Since debt collectors sometimes make collection attempts without always having a strong legal basis, researching contract and debt collection laws may help individuals learn how to deal with legal issues related to medical debt.