Medical debts are the same as any other

Q. Is it true that medical bills or accounts are not allowed to remain on your credit report for more than four years in the state of Texas?

A. It is not true. Medical bills are basically the same as any other debt. They stay on your credit report for seven years. There is a four-year statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit for a debt; however, the fact that you cannot be sued does not mean you no longer owe the debt, and it will not become “obsolete” and removed from your credit report for seven years.


Q. Am I entitled to a paid leave when I have a child? My employer has told me any leave will be without pay.

A. Although many people know there is a law providing that certain employees receive medical leave, there is some confusion about what the law says. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, you may be entitled to up to 12 weeks leave, depending on the size the company and how long you have worked there. Basically, the law applies to employers with 50 or more employees, and the employee must have worked for at least one year. The law, however, does not require that the leave be with pay. All you may be legally entitled to is an unpaid leave. Visit the Department of Labor website, to learn more about this law.


Q. I just got a call from a debt collector saying that if I did not promptly pay, he would garnish my tax refund before I received it. My wife and I have been counting on this money to pay some other expenses. We have been paying the debt collector all we can afford. Can the debt collector do this?

A. The debt collector cannot garnish your federal tax refund. Creditors may take tax refunds in only very limited circumstances. For example, a refund may be taken for a debt owed to the federal government, a debt owed to a state, or a debt for past-due child support. Threatening to garnish your tax refund also violates state and federal debt collection laws. Under these laws, a debt collector is prohibited from making threats to take legal action he has no right to take. I suggest you let the debt collector know that you know your legal rights and continue to pay what you can afford. My guess is the threats will stop. If they don’t, contact the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and consider speaking with a consumer attorney.


Q. I signed a contract to buy a car. The dealer backed out and sold it to someone else. Luckily, the next day I found the car for the same price at another dealer. Now I want to sue the original seller who backed out of our deal. How much can I sue for?

A. This is an interesting question and shows how damages for breach of contract work. You probably cannot sue for anything. The law does not punish people for breaching a contract. The measure of damages for a breach of contract is the difference between the contract price and what you ultimately paid. Because you purchased the car for the same price, you have no damages. It may not be “fair” that he sold it to someone else, but as far as the law is concerned his conduct did not cause you any damages. If you were forced to pay more for the car, the dealer would have been responsible for the increase in the price.



Do you want to know a lot more about your legal rights? Will you be in Houston on Saturday, April 1? That is when the Center for Consumer Law at the University of Houston Law Center will present the latest session of the People’s Law School. This free program is your chance to learn more about your legal rights and get help with basic legal problems. There will be classes in 14 different areas of law. The People’s Law School will be held at the Law Center on the main campus of the University. Everyone may select three courses to attend. You must register in advance. To register or get more information, go to