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Dave Ramsey says: Always offer to pay what you can on unsettled bill

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Dear Dave,

I’ve had a judgment filed against me for an old, unpaid medical bill. The original amount was $2,500, but now it has increased to $3,200. Can I negotiate this with the lawyer?

I’ve asked him for a detailed statement of the account several times, but all I’ve gotten is a payment booklet.

— Bill

Dear Bill,

When it comes to paying off bills or debt, you should always pay what’s owed if you have the money.

There’s a moral, as well as legal, responsibility involved. That being said, if you don’t have $3,200, offer him whatever you’ve got — $2,000 or the original $2,500 as a settlement.

Make sure he understands that you’re not offering to pay the amount you have on the debt, but that it’s being offered as settlement in full if the debt is cleared.

The reason you haven’t gotten what you’ve asked for so far is you may have been talking to some low-level staffer or paralegal.

If you have been talking directly to the lawyer, then he’s probably running a small debt collections or debt lawsuit machine. That means you’re just one of dozens of widgets coming down the line.

To you, this is very personal. But to him, you’re just another account. You might have to do something to get his attention and wake him up.

If this is the case, he probably gets a piece of whatever he collects. So, if he gets a third of $2,000 or $2,500 it might make his house payment this month.

You could also talk to the hospital administrator, too, and let them know you’ll bring a couple thousand down there today if they’ll accept it as payment in full.

At this point, you’ve just got to do something to get off the conveyor belt!

— Dave

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