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What do I do about affects on my score from collectors on a medical bill I can't afford?
I received an injury 3 years ago that was severe enough to lead to an emergency room visit. At the time, I stated to those who were present at the time of the injury that I COULD NOT afford to go to the emergency room. They felt, however, due to the severity that it was 100% necessary and took me anyway, telling me they would pay for it if necessary (the injury was their fault). Of course, when the bills arrived, they were unwilling to comply with that verbal agreement. I thought I had paid off everything related to the incident.
Then, this week I received a letter from a law firm acting as a collection agency in regards to the "outstanding" account. I got lucky it even found its way to me, thanks to mail forwarding. It had been sent 3 weeks ago to an address I have not resided at for almost 4 years (prior to the account occurrence).
The remaining portion of the bill (almost $1000) has put a major dent in my credit score. I am only 23 years old, and I make less than $12,000 annually. My current living expenses and unavoidable expenses keep me from putting money towards savings as is. In the way of savings, currently I have none.
The law firm has offered a settlement, but I can't even afford to make payments towards this amount.
What do I do? Can I counter-offer for settlement? Will it do me any good? Clearly I can't afford a lawyer to handle this issue either and I am completely distraught as to what the best actions to take would be. I already have a TON of student loans outstanding that will affect my score for decades. I don't want my future jeopardized just because of this one incident... I just wish I could go back to that day and convince the people responsible for the injury not to take me to the ER...

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