Unfortunately, you were involved in a serious car accident, which resulted in you going to the hospital. Due to the severity of your injuries, you hired a personal injury attorney. Your attorney notified the hospital that you were represented by counsel, and to send all bills directly to the attorney, not you. Despite your attorney's request, the hospital continues sending you the bills, attempting to collect the past due debt. You are left confused and annoyed because your attorney told you that you would not be responsible for this debt until the end of your case. You are left wondering if this is legal. The short answer is “no”.
Florida Consumer Collection Practice Act
Under the Florida Consumer Collection Practice Act (“FCCPA”), once the hospital knows that a person is represented by an attorney, they can no longer attempt to collect the debt from that injured person directly. See Fla. Stat. 559.72(18). If the hospital fails to abide by this law and continues to send bills to the injured person after knowing they are represented by an attorney, they are potentially liable to the injured person for up to $1,000, plus the attorney's fees and costs. See Fla. Stat. 559.77(2). I know, it sounds too good to be true, but it is the law. You can get money in your pocket and have your attorney's fees and costs paid for by the hospital.
What is the next step?
If you have hired an attorney for your personal injury case and are still receiving hospital bills, you need to speak with your attorney and make sure they sent out a representation letter informing the hospital that you now have counsel. If your attorney provided the hospital with a representation letter, the next step is filing an FCCPA lawsuit against the hospital for improper communications. Ideally, you want to hire a consumer protection attorney who has experience handling similar cases. If your personal injury attorney does not handle consumer protection cases, he or she will most likely know an attorney who does handle these types of cases. At Berkowitz & Myer, we have handled countless cases such as the one described above. If you have found yourself in the situation described above, we offer free consultations and would like to hear more about the facts of your case.
-Jon Dubbeld, Esq.
Berkowitz & Myer