Legal Question in Business Law in California

Statute of Limitations for Medical Bills

Is there a statue of limitation for medical bills? I was sent a medical bill from three years ago. I don't remember owing this doctor a payment. When I asked for proof they said that their records were archived and they didn't have it readily available. So, I asked them to get the records an provide proof for the billing. Is there a reasonable period of time that bills should be sent out by a Doctor?

Asked on 2/03/08, 12:21 pm

2 Answers from Attorneys

Bryan Whipple Bryan R. R. Whipple, Attorney at Law

Re: Statute of Limitations for Medical Bills

The statute of limitations for commencing suit on a claim based upon an oral contract is two years from the date of breach, and if the claim is based on a writing, as most but not all medical bills would be, suit can be commenced as late as four years from the time the prospective defendant breached the agreement by failing to pay when due. Note that it is the date of the breach and not the date of the contract or the date the medical services were rendered that governs.

In addition to a suit based upon a contract, the creditor could also bring suit on other legal theories, such as "account stated," a theory which could be asserted if the doctor had rendered bills which had neither been protested or paid; each ignored bill would re-start the four-year limitations period.

Failure of a creditor to submit timely bills is not a standard defense to a late suit to collect an amount due if the suit is otherwise within the statute of limitations, but it is possible a judge or jury might rule in you favor on the ground that your contract included either an express or an implied agreement that the doctor would render a timely and properly-detailed statement, or that the doctor had breached the implied covenant of "good faith and fair dealing" said to exist in every contract by waiting so long to bill.

Did the bill come from the doctor or from a bill collector? More likely the latter, I'd guess; there are speculators that buy up unpaid bills at cents on the dollar, then try to collect by means that are sometimes legal, sometimes not. Of course, these collection agencies seldom get the back-up documentation. I'd insist on more documentation if you truly don't believe you owe the bill.

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Answered on 2/04/08, 12:11 am

Larry Rothman Larry Rothman & Associates

Re: Statute of Limitations for Medical Bills

Did you receive a letter from a collection agency? Normally, the statute of limitations is 2 years from the date of the breach for an oral contract and 4 years if there is a written agreement. The doctor should be keeping records for 5 years.

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Answered on 2/03/08, 2:44 pm

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