Here’s an email that is similar to something we get all of the time:

I hurt my back in February at work and went to the hospital. I had x-rays, a CT scan and then was discharged. The bills are around 20k and haven’t been paid. Now I find they are on my credit report and I’m being sent to collections. Help!

This really does happen a lot. It’s usually for people who don’t have long-term complications and go to the ER and maybe a few doctor treatments after that. They assume the bill will be paid or that it is paid and don’t think anything of it until they get the collection notice or learn of their credit report being affected.

Under Illinois law, if you have an active workers’ compensation case, it’s illegal for any medical provider or collection agency to put anything about an outstanding bill on your credit report. How do we determine if a case is active? It means that you’ve filed an application for adjustment of claim with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. That’s typically the first thing an attorney does for you when you hire them.

The real question is, can we help? That depends on a couple of things:

1. Is it too late? You have to file the application for adjustment of claim within three years of the accident date unless they’ve paid some other benefit related to the case within the last two years. Usually, these bills don’t pop up years later, but every now and then they do. That’s usually a situation where someone had a debt that was sold for pennies on the dollar.

2. Did you have any other treatment? This will sound harsh, but it’s honest. Attorneys aren’t going to get involved in a case that doesn’t have much if any settlement value. Typically, if you only went to the ER and had no other medical care, the case won’t have any value. So if a lawyer filed the case for you, they’d be doing so for free. In those situations, we won’t get involved but will give you tips on what you can do. On the other hand, if you did have follow-up care such as physical therapy, doctor’s visits, etc., the case is probably worth something which would allow us to be compensated for our time helping you get the bills paid.

In some cases, an injured worker has most of their bills paid, but one or two remain unpaid and the insurance company won’t take care of it. We can almost always help those injured Illinois workers as long as the time limits haven’t passed.

The good news for people in these situations is not only can we usually help get the bills paid and the credit report fixed, we can also get you a settlement for your injury and do this all in a relatively short period of time. So your bills get paid and you end up with a few thousand to tens of thousands in your pocket too.

My best advice is to remember that time is really of the essence in these situations. I’ve sadly talked to a lot of people who waited too long and got stuck with bills that shouldn’t have been their responsibility. If you’d like to discuss a case for free, you can call us any time at 312-346-5578.