Advice on Medical Debts Incurred by Minor

Can medical debts be reported on my credit, when I was under 18?

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Medical Office & Teenager | Medical Debt, Minors & Credit Score
Bill's Answer: Answered by Bills.com Staff

Whether you can be held legally liable for this debt depends on the laws of your state regarding debts incurred by minors. In most states, many obligations created by minors are considered void, as minors are not legally capable of entering binding contracts. However, many states provide exceptions to this rule for debts incurred for necessities, such as non-elective medical treatment. Hospital care provided during the birth of your son could certainly be viewed as a necessity, so you may be liable for the debt.

Some states require that the provider attempt to collect from the minor’s parents prior to turning to the minor for payment, as parents are generally liable for any necessary medical treatment provided to their minor children. This is called the doctrine of necessaries.

However, if your parents are unable to pay, the creditor may have a legal claim against you personally. Since the laws regarding debts created by minors vary significantly from state to state, I strongly encourage you to consult with an attorney in your state to discuss your rights and obligations in this situation. Consulting with an attorney in your area should provide you with the information you need to determine your liability and help you resolve this outstanding medical debt.

Quick Tip: The Bills.com Debt Coach offers non-nonsense information about your debt relief options, and will give you the pros, cons, and costs for each.

If you determine that the contract creating this obligation was not legally binding, then the account should probably not be appearing on your credit report. A debt must be legally enforceable for the listing to accurately show up on your credit reports. If you feel that this debt is not valid, you may wish to dispute any listings related to the account with the three major consumer credit reporting agencies — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. When you dispute the listings, you should explain to the credit bureaus that these debts are not legal debts due to the fact that you were a minor when the services were rendered; you may also wish to provide any documentation you have to substantiate your claim, such as a copy of your birth certificate, a hospital release form, and a copy of any state statute or court case which establishes that any contract entered into by a minor is void.

The Federal Trade Commission offers a free guide on disputing inaccurate credit report listings. In addition to disputing these accounts with the credit bureaus, you may wish to formally dispute the validity of the debts with the creditor and debt collector directly, which will put the creditor on notice that you do not believe this debt to be a legally collectable obligation. An example dispute letter can be found at the Bills.com Debt Do-It-Yourself page, though you will need to tailor this letter to the specifics of your situation, explaining the fact that you were a minor at the time the debt was incurred.

Statute of Limitations

Depending on how long ago you gave birth to your son, your state’s statute of limitations for the collection of this outstanding debt may have expired; if the statute of limitations has expired, the creditor would likely be barred from taking any legal action against you to collect on this account. Statutes of limitations vary from state to state and also depend on the type of debt being collected. For medical debts, which are generally considered written contracts, statutes of limitations generally range from three to six years, but are significantly longer in a few states.

To find out the statute of limitations for the collection of debts in your state, see the Bills.com resource Statute of Limitations Laws by State Also, you should know that, under federal law, delinquent accounts must be removed from your credit report 7 years after the date of first delinquency, which means that they will fall off your credit report within roughly seven and a half years of the date the account first became delinquent. If the age of this debt is approaching your state’s statute of limitations or the 7-year credit reporting limit, waiting for these time periods to expire may be an easier solution than actively trying to dispute the debt.

You should keep in mind that this may be a valid debt depending on your state’s laws related to obligations created by minors, so you should research your state’s laws and consult with an attorney before you decide the best course of action to resolve these accounts. If you find that you are liable for the debts and would like to try to resolve the accounts, you should visit the Bills.com Debt Help page to learn about various options available to consumers to help them resolve their outstanding obligations. If you submit your contact information in the Bills.com debt consolidation savings center, we can have several pre-screened debt relief professionals contact you to discuss the debt relief options available to you.

Insurance & Medical Debt

In regard to your insurance company not paying this medical bill, the options available to you will likely depend on the amount of time that has elapsed since the debt was incurred. Most insurance policies require that you dispute any claim denials within a certain period of time; if you do not meet the insurance company’s deadlines, they will likely refuse to pay this claim. If you did dispute the denial within the required time period and the insurance company still refused to pay your valid claim, you may wish to speak with your attorney to determine what recourse you have against your insurance company.

You may also wish to file a complaint with your state insurance regulatory agency regarding your insurance provider’s failure to pay this medical bill. If you contact your state Attorney General’s Office, they should be able to tell you how to file a formal complaint against your insurance provider.

As I mentioned above, the first thing you need to do is consult with an attorney to determine your legal liability for this debt. From there, you can determine how to best address the debt and credit reporting issues.

I hope this information helps you Find. Learn & Save.

Best,

Bill

Bills.com

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Comments (17)


Michelle C.
Spokane, WA  |  February 12, 2014
I was billed for a doctor visit and I'm 16, my mother said she talked to the insurance company asking them to bill it properly. The bill has been sent to collections. Will this impact my credit when I turn 18?
Bills.com
February 13, 2014
The Fair Credit Reporting Act is a federal law that sets the rules everyone involved in credit reports must follow. There is nothing in the FCRA, or any court cases involving the FCRA I've found, that make an exception for minors. In other words, the credit report rules apply to all ages equally.

Not only will a delinquent account harm your credit score now, it will do so on your 18th birthday and thereafter.

That said, the consumer credit reporting agencies have the option to not provide reports about minors to third parties. Experian, for one, refuses to provide credit history if it knows the consumer is a minor. When the minor reaches the age of 18, the previous credit history becomes available for access.
Shameika H.
Lithonia, GA  |  May 16, 2013
When I was 18 I took my younger sister, who was 17 at the time, to the hospital because my mom had to work. After she received treatment we were taken to speak with someone about the billing and payment I told the person I was here sister but since she was legally considered a minor I had to sign the forms. Now it is on my credit and it isn't even my bill I was basically forced to sign it what can I do about this?
Bills.com
May 16, 2013
Generally, when a minor signs a contract, courts are reluctant to enforce the contract against the minor because the assumption is minors are incompetent to understand the terms, conditions, and consequences of entering into the contract. It is not illegal for a minor to sign a contract, and many do. (This explains the dozens of child actors we see on TV and tens of thousands of minors employed by retailers.) Courts want to enforce contracts, but as a matter of public policy courts do not want people to take advantage of minors and other incompetent people who may not comprehend a contract's contents. As a result, some companies create blanket policies prohibiting minors from signing their contracts.

Two things happen when an ER or clinic discharges a patient. First, the patient or guardian signs a medical form indicating they understand what follow-up care the patient may require. The second is the patient's promise to pay whatever fees the hospital and its contractors can imagine. The second also contains a clause stating if a guardian signs, he or or she has liability if the patient fails to pay.

Here, the hospital billing person parroted company policy when he or she said your minor sister could not sign the forms. What he or she neglected to say was you had no legal obligation to sign the forms. You were free to refuse to sign, but were under the impression your sister was imprisoned unless you signed. That's all in the past, and as you asked, now what can you do about it?

If the debt is under a $1,000 or so, then negotiate a settlement with the hospital or its collection agent.

If the debt is large, then consult with a lawyer who has civil litigation or consumer law experience. Talk with him or her about attacking the contract. Courts will cancel or modify contracts signed under coercion created by the party who demands a signature. If you had a legitimate fear and concern your sister was imprisoned by the hospital, and the only way you could free her was by signing the contract stating you had liability for the hospital's fees, then a court may cancel the contract.
Tom J.
Independence, KY  |  September 02, 2011
You have to be very careful taking advice from internet sources. Many internet sources are run by creditors. In every state, except for certain circumstances, minors are not liable or obligated to pay for any debt, medical or otherwise, incurred before their 18th birthday. For example some minors get married at age 17 or younger. If you have a child and sign as the responsible party then yes you have to pay that bill. But those are not the circumstances I'm talking about. If your parents took you to the doctor for a 10,000 dollar surgery and your parents failed to pay that bill. At your 18th birthday or even before the creditor may attempt to bluff you into paying but make no mistake you are not responsible for that bill. If you did not sign as the responsible party then don't be bluffed into paying anything. Good Day, Tom.
Bills.com
September 02, 2011
Tom, as you pointed out, there are certain times when a minor is responsible for medical bills. The wise course is to consult with an attorney, if contacted for this kind of debt. It is a bad choice to pay the debt, but to ignore it, assuming that it need not be dealt with, could be harmful.
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Bills.com
September 17, 2010
Collection agents are not your attorney, and you should not believe legal advice from a party that has a vested interest in collecting money from you. Collection agents oftentimes offer incomplete or inaccurate legal advice, and the advice they offer is usually self serving. If you signed a guarantor agreement at the time of the medical service, then you are responsible for paying for that service. If you did not, then you are not responsible for paying for that service. If the minor child was your offspring or you adopted the child, then you are responsible for the minor's medical care. However, if the minor child is not your offspring, then you have no financial responsibility for his or her care under the common law.
K. M.
September 16, 2010
I provided the health insurance coverage for my step-son, who lived in a separate state. I never made any medical appointments for him, took him to any medical appointments or signed anything claiming to be the financial party for his medical expenses not covered by insurance. A collection agency is refusing to remove my name from this past debt saying if I provide insurance then I am agreeing to pay any outstanding medical bill. I totally disagree(and have no intentions of paying the bill)! How can I be responsible for a bill I never agreed to and for a child that I have no legal obligation to?!
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Bills.com
February 12, 2010
If stepson is an adult he is liable for the debt. Accordingly, it will appear on his credit report. However, if stepparent signed a guarantor form when stepson was admitted, then stepparent is jointly liable for the debt. Accordingly, the debt can appear on stepparent's credit report if stepparent is a guarantor.
Dirk H.
February 12, 2010
My insurance denied payment for medical services provided to my 19 year old stepson. The bills ahve been handed over to a collection agency and are in his name. Who's credit report will that negative impact....his or mine because he is under my insurance?
Dee .
December 04, 2009
I am denied every form of credit I apply for (and that includes gas and store cards) and have been for my entire adult life. I managed to get a secured credit card last year, after being declined for every other form of credit (including other secured cards and supposedly "low credit" cards). My score is in the mid 600s after slow but surely raising it from the low 500s. I have to pay enormous deposits to get even utilities turned on or to rent a new apartment, and buying a home or car is out of the question, even though I have never in the 10 years of my legal adulthood missed a payment on anything other than the medical bills which have been paid off IN FULL. Better score than otehrs or not, the situation is still immensely unfair.
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Bills.com
December 04, 2009
In my opinion, you need to adjust your expectations regarding your credit score. A 700 for a person with your brief (relatively speaking) credit history and the near-distant-past late payments is not bad. A 700 is nothing to despair, and many Bills.com readers would love to trade scores with you. I think your "enemies" to a higher score right now are the length of your history and your credit diversity. Allow me to suggest two tactics for you. First, open a credit card at a department story or oil company and make occasional charges on the card and pay them off promptly. Second, keep your oldest credit card or account active because that is establishing the baseline for your credit history. See FICO Score Calculation to learn more about your credit score.
Dee .
December 04, 2009
When I was a minor, I went to the ER twice: once when I was 15 and once when I was 16. I had a bad relationship with my mother and moved out shortly before I turned 17. When I was 19 I applied for my first credit and was denied. When I subsequently received my first credit report, I was shocked to see that both medical collections were on my report! Since it happened twice at two separate hospitals in two separate years, the possiblity that it was a clerical error was slim. This was clearly my mother trying to get out of paying the bills by putting them in my na,e likely hoping that my being a minor would void them. There were closing dates on the report but no opening dates, so when I called the reporting agency to ask to have it removed, they told me that they could not verify that I was a minor at the time of service because there was no opening date. I thought this was ridiculous since the CLOSING dates on the cases were BOTH prior to my 18th birthday, and unless I had gone back in time for medical treatment, that would mean that I was indeed a minor at the time of service. At 19, I let this defeat me rather than fight it, and have thus had sour credit right out of the gates and ever since. The debts finally fell off of my report after 7 years, when I was 22 and 23 respectively, but when I was 23 I incurred new, legit medical debts of my own. I was still so defeated by the initial incident that I allowed the new debts to go to collections. I paid off those accounts in full earlieer this year, at the age of 27. Other than those paid-off collections, I do not have ANY derogatory marks on my report. My positive items are some current student loans (I;m in sschool so they're deferred) and a secured credit card with perfect payment history. Yet, my score remains below 700 and barely climbs no matter what efforts I make. I know the medical debts from when I was an adult ARE my fault, but I feel like I never had a chance thanks to those medical collections from when I was a minor. what insight if any is there to this situation?
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