Tampa Fair Debt Attorney
Florida and federal fair debt collection laws protect consumers from unfair debt collection practices by prohibiting lying, threats, harassment, and other deceptive and unfair methods used by creditors and bill collectors when they believe someone owes them money. These laws protect injured workers from being hounded by the doctors and hospitals that treat them after a workplace injury. It’s a violation of fair debt laws for hospitals to send their bills directly to injured workers when they should instead be paid by the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier. Tampa workers’ compensation attorney Jason Kobal has special experience in this area and utilizes his expertise to help injured workers with fair debt issues throughout Florida statewide. Learn more below about fair debt protections for injured workers, and call Kobal Law for immediate assistance with illegal and unfair debt collection practices in Florida.
How do hospitals violate fair debt laws for injured workers?
When you’re injured on the job in Florida, you don’t get to choose which doctor you can see. Instead, you have to go to a doctor authorized by your employer, one who supposedly knows how to deal with work-related claims and bill accordingly. Doctors and hospitals treating injured workers are paid according to a Fee Schedule, which may only be a fraction of what they charge individuals who do not come in through a workers’ compensation claim. It is a violation of the law for healthcare providers to bill you the difference between what they normally charge and what workers’ compensation pays them. Under Florida workers’ compensation law, your medical bills are supposed to be 100% covered. If you receive any charges at all, talk to an experienced Florida workers’ compensation lawyer about whether these bills are appropriate or illegal.
When you need medical care, you likely don’t only see one doctor. That doctor may send you for tests, lab work, x-rays or MRIs. Your treatment may involve hospitals, outpatient clinics, surgery centers, testing facilities, rehab centers, therapists, and pharmacies. You may also have had to rely on emergency medical services to transport you to a hospital. Not all of these entities and providers are experienced when it comes to treating (and billing) injured workers. Even within a hospital, the many different departments, doctors and radiologists submit their own billing, and their separate billing departments may not be as sophisticated as the hospital’s central billing department.
It is the responsibility of the provider to get your information upfront before they bill you, including finding out whether your injury is a work injury and if so, the name of your employer’s workers’ compensation carrier. By sending you bills and collection notices, these entities are not only causing you stress and aggravation; they are violating the law.
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)
This federal law prohibits a long list of abusive, unfair, and deceptive practices performed by bill collectors and collection agencies in an attempt to collect a debt. For instance, bill collectors are not allowed to call you at home before eight in the morning or after nine at night without your permission, and they can’t call you at work if you told them you can’t take personal calls there. They can’t threaten legal action they are not really taking; they can’t publish your name on a list of “deadbeats”; they can’t contact your neighbors about your debt; they can’t repeatedly call to annoy and harass you; and they can’t use profanity or obscenities when they do talk to you. Also, if you tell them you have a lawyer, they need to deal directly with your lawyer and not you.
The FDCPA applies to collection agencies hired by the doctor or hospital, or who bought the debt from them. If they violate the FDCPA, you can bring a civil action against them and collect $1,000 per violation, plus any actual damages you suffered. You can also collect your attorney’s fees and costs from them. Kobal Law can take on these cases for you, putting a stop to unlawful collection practices and harassment and recovering compensation for the worry and other harm they have caused you.
Florida Consumer Collection Practices Act (FCCPA)
The FCCPA is Florida’s version of the FDCPA, and it prohibits many of the same kinds of annoying, harassing and deceptive conduct that is outlawed by the federal law. However, the Florida law is different in a couple of significant ways. Most importantly, the FCCPA applies to activities by the original creditor, not just collection agencies. This means that if the hospital, pharmacy, lab or healthcare provider is the one sending you bills and contacting you in ways that violate the law, you can pursue a claim directly against them. Additionally, the FCCPA authorizes punitive damages when the practices used against you were malicious. Although harder to prove, punitive damages can greatly increase the amount of money you can recover against an entity for their unlawful conduct toward you.
Fair Credit Reporting Act
Reporting you as delinquent on a bill can damage your credit and negatively impact your life in serious ways. You have rights in this area under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). If a hospital or their collection agency is going to report something negative about you to a credit reporting agency, they are required to notify you both before and after they make that report. You have 30 days to get incorrect information corrected or deleted. When the hospital never should have billed you in the first place, reporting you to the credit bureaus is a violation of FCRA. We know the ins and outs of FCRA and can help you get that false information removed from your credit report. We’ll also go after money damages for any harm caused to you by this false information, including statutory damages, actual damages, emotional damages and even punitive damages in appropriate cases. We can also get your attorney’s fees paid by the other side, so you’ll keep the full amount of damages awarded to you.
Call Kobal Law for Fair Debt Help in Tampa and Florida Statewide
If you are confused about why the hospital is billing you instead of the worker’s comp carrier, call Kobal Law for a free consultation at 813-873-2440. If the hospital is violating fair debt laws, our experienced Florida workers’ compensation attorney will set things right and hold them accountable for their actions.