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Darren Kruse
Darren Kruse, Solicitor
Category: Australia Law
Satisfied Customers: 16
Experience:  Practising in in Personal Injury, Workcover, Civil Disputes, Family, Wills and Estates and Criminal law.
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December I lost vision for a few days. MRI showed signs of

Customer Question

December I lost vision for a few days. MRI showed signs of possible MS. Doctors from Flinders Medical Clinic asked me to have a lumbar puncture, a 1 day stay, might get headache which will just go again. Lumbar puncture Monday, headache Tuesday onwards. Friend was going to take me back in car, I passed out on way. He tool me to stirling hospital. Put on oxygen and with ambulances to Flinders. I understood transport from hospital to hospital should not be paid be me, it is for free. Bill now from SA ambulance because stirling hospital is private. I was not told before transport of the cost for it. All I knew was that no doctor was at stirling. Who is responsible to cover these cost? Stirling hospital, Medicare, Flinders who did the lumbar puncture. I knew about headache, but not to such extend that the body shuts down. Hope you can help. Thank you. Bernadette
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Australia Law
Expert:  Darren Kruse replied 3 years ago.

section52 :

Hi

Expert:  Darren Kruse replied 3 years ago.
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Expert:  Darren Kruse replied 3 years ago.
I would approach this on a contract law basis. Ambulance SA says that you have entered into a contract to convey you from Stirling to Flinders.

They performed that contract, and want to be paid - presumably it's less than $6000 ?

You deny that a contract was formed.

Questions :
1. Did you sign anything before getting into the Ambulance ?

2. Alternatively, were you verbally told of the costs involved in the transport and who had to pay them ? ie the contract may have been verbal

3. What was your mental and physical state at the time you were transported ? You may not have had mental capacity to enter the contract.

4. How much is the bill for ?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
The bill is $898.20 and I supposedly have to pay half according SA ambulance because I am on centerlink single parent pension. I was not told that the cost of transport will be my responsibility. I did not sign any paperwork or contract. I was conscious when arriving at hospital, however kept drifting off. My friends son had similar situation with going to Mt.Barker Hospital after braking his wrist. They could not help, the mother offered to take the boy to Adelaide. The hospital staff persisted he had to be transported per ambulance. There was never any invoice issued. That's what we thought what it wild be like with Stirling when the nurse called 000 straight away. Please let me know if further information needed. Thanks. Bernadette
Expert:  Darren Kruse replied 3 years ago.
To set you mind at ease, because the bill is less than $6000, the *worst* thing that can happen is that the debt will end up before a Magistrate in the small claims court - this is generally a lawyer-free zone. If you lose and cannot afford to pay in one hit, (because you are on a pension) then the Magistrate will make an order that you pay in installments.

However :
A person cannot be bound by a contract if they have not entered into it voluntarily.

In your case, it is questionable whether you had the mental capacity at the time (at the Stirling Hospital) to enter into a contract due to your medical condition. Medical evidence, in the form of a

However, you did get the benefit of the contract in that you were conveyed to Flinders emergency where presumably you had medical treatment.

Now, the question any magistrate will ask you is "would you have taken that ambulance if you had known it was going to cost almost $900 ?

If you think you can look a Magistrate in the eye and say = "no, I would got my friend to take me" ; or "I can't afford that - my condition isn't that bad" then I think you have a reasonable shot at arguing this in court.

You may want to talk to SA Ambulance and negotiate, or let it go to court. I would at least talk to SA Ambulance and point out the points I have made above first .

I hope you found my answers helpful, please click on the GREEN ACCEPT button above for my answer.

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Darren Kruse, Solicitor
Category: Australia Law
Satisfied Customers: 16
Experience: Practising in in Personal Injury, Workcover, Civil Disputes, Family, Wills and Estates and Criminal law.
Darren Kruse and 2 other Australia Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Regards the mental capacity-do I understand this correctly? If I was not in the position to make the choice on my own due to fainting and drifting off several times does this mean I could not have entered a contract and therefore no matter how, no contract exists? And do I just wait for SA ambulance to take the matter to court? Or can they claim installments from my pension with just contacting centerlink? SA ambulance asked me to contact stirling hospital to see if they pay. At the same time they took my pension number to make a note in their system. now I worry they might just take it from my pension without my permission. Thanks again. Will pay extra if I can get out of this bill. Thanks. Bernadette
Expert:  Darren Kruse replied 3 years ago.
Good morning.

Re "If I was not in the position to make the choice on my own due to fainting and drifting off several times does this mean I could not have entered a contract and therefore no matter how, no contract exists"

That is correct, except for the bit "no matter what". The wrinkle is that you had the benefit of the contract (ie the transport to Flinders) and you may have entered into the contract anyway if you did have mental capacity.

That is why, in my opinion, the even more critical question is "would you have entered into the contract anyway, if you did have mental capacity at the time"

If your answer is yes - then don't fight this and negotiate to pay SA Ambulance in installments - that is all they will be able to get out a Magistrate anyway and they know that.

If your answer is no , ie as I said earlier "no, I would got my friend to take me" ; or "I can't afford that - my condition isn't that bad" then I think you have a reasonable shot at arguing this in court.

Don't just wait for SA Ambulance to take it to court, because they will add interest, and you will have it hanging over your head for longer.

---

Re taking money out of your Commonwealth Centrelink pension, SA Ambulance can only apply to Centrelink to do this AFTER they have a Court judgment in their favour ; ie if they have won in court.

See ENFORCEMENT OF JUDGMENTS ACT 1991 (SA) - SECT 6
Garnishee orders
http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/sa/consol_act/eoja1991251/s6.html

and the corresponding
SOCIAL SECURITY ACT 1991 - SECT 1230
Debt from failure to comply with garnishee notice
http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/ssa1991186/s1230.html

Further, when making a compulsory garnishee order the State judge must consider three things :
(a) the judgment debtor's means of satisfying the judgment; and
(b) the necessary living expenses of the judgment debtor and his or her dependants; and
(c) other liabilities of the judgment debtor.

So, at the end of a very long court process and assuming that they win in court SA Ambulance will only be able to get their money in installments in amounts that won't send you broke. So they know they may as well negotiate.

--

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