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Avoid Legal Problems When Setting Up a Fund to Pay for Medical Bills

In St. Paul, MN last month, a 19-year-old man named Antoine Willis was physically and psychologically injured when his mother’s boyfriend deliberately set him on fire after an argument.

Much of his body still hurts from the severe burns he suffered, and Antoine still has nightmares about the attack. “Sometimes I’m even scared to go to sleep because I feel like he is going to try and come back and finish what he started. It hurts, emotionally and physically,” Antoine said. He has these nightmares even though the mother’s boyfriend is still in jail.

But while the severe burns slowly heal, Antoine recently suffered a new wound. Money from a bank account that was set up to help him pay for medical bills has gone missing. Antoine believes that his uncle and his mother are responsible for the money being gone. More than $4,000 was donated by strangers who wanted to help Antoine, but now at least $2,000 is missing.

Antoine said that his uncle opened up the account for him and put both of their names on the fund. By doing that, the uncle gained legal access to the money. Bank records show that there were two separate withdrawals of more than $1,000 each that Antoine did not know about.

Since the money disappeared, Antoine says that he hasn’t heard from or seen his mother or his uncle. He added that they both struggle with gambling and drug addictions. Antoine said that all he wants is his money back so that he has the best chance to make a full recovery.

“It was just heartbreaking, to tell you the truth,” says Antoine. “It really hurts to know that they would do something like that to me. They know that I’m going through all this pain and suffering.”

Willis was to have surgery a few days after finding out about the missing money. He wasn’t sure how much longer he would be in the hospital, and now he isn’t sure how he will pay for his bills once he gets out.

A spokesperson at the bank that opened the account said that what Antoine’s uncle allegedly did is not illegal, because he is an official signer on the account. As a result, Antoine cannot file a lawsuit against his uncle to get the money back. Antoine has now removed his uncle’s name from the fund, so any donations coming in will only be accessed by Antoine.

This story provides a lesson that all accident victims and injured people must think about as they recover: If someone does set up a fund to accept donations to pay for a victim’s medical bills, the victim must make sure that he or she knows whose name is on the account. If not, then it’s possible that the money that should go to medical bills can be used for other purposes–without the victim even knowing about it!

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