Ask the Attorney Column - July 2015 (I am a physician and have several patients who have failed to pay their bills despite multiple requests by my office. What is my best option for collecting on these old accounts?)

30-Aug-2015

The following article appeared in the July 2015 issue of the Community Chronicle Newspaper as part of a monthly column titled "Ask the Attorney" authored by Donnie O'Pry of the O'Pry Law Firm.

I am a physician and have several patients who have failed to pay their bills despite multiple requests by my office. What is my best option for collecting on these old accounts?

There is no doubt that one of the most frustrating parts of being in business for yourself is customers who won’t pay their bills. You have provided quality services to the customer, but now the customer is trying to stiff you on the bill.

Fortunately, Louisiana law provides a mechanism to help business owners just like you recover from deadbeat customers who think that they can avoid paying their bills. Louisiana Revised Statute 9:2781 is often referred to as Louisiana’s “Open Account” statute. This statute provides that when any person fails to pay an “open account” within thirty days after receiving written demand, that person shall be liable for the business owner’s reasonable attorney fees for prosecution of the claim against the customer. Thus, a business owner can recover all of the expenses associated with hiring an attorney to file an action against the customer for the collection of the open account after the customer is provided written demand. An “open account” as defined in the statute includes any account in which a past due amount is owed, whether the account is for a single or multiple transactions. The statute also specifically includes debts incurred for professional services, such as by doctors or lawyers.

You should be aware that under Louisiana Civil Code Article 3494, a suit on an open account must be filed within three years from the date that you rendered the professional services. After this time, the action will have prescribed under Louisiana law and it is unlikely that you can bring an action to recover for these unpaid bills.

Donnie O’Pry is the Managing Partner of the O’Pry Law Firm, a litigation firm specializing in representing accident and injury victims. Please email your questions to Donnie@oprylaw.com.