It often comes as a shock to people that if they are involved in a car accident where someone else is clearly at fault, there is no protection in the law against being sent to collections for your outstanding medical bills. It seems counter-intuitive, especially when a person is communicating with the insurance agent of the negligent driver and everyone seems to agree that the other person is at fault. Often times, they even agree to pay out for property damages. However, personal injury damages are dealt with separately, and insurance companies will normally not pay out until the person is done treating. Since dealing with the costs of treatment is one of the scariest and most frustrating aspects of any injury case, it is important to know your options.
1) Investigate if you have Med-Pay coverage under your own auto insurance policy:
This is a separate benefit that is often part of full-coverage policies, so you may have it and not be aware of it. The purpose of this benefit is to pay medical bills so that the insured does not have to be immediately concerned about who will pay for the treatment. Unfortunately, this benefit is usually only around $5000.00. However, it is very valuable to have a pool of money available for treatment if you don’t have health insurance. In car accident cases, med-pay benefits are generally only available person injured in or on the car that is covered by that policy. However, in premises liability cases (i.e. slip and falls on property) the protection may be available from the home-owner’s policy.
2) Submit medical treatment through your own private or public Health Insurance:
While you may be resistant to the idea of submitting medical treatment through your own health insurance policy since someone else was clearly at fault in the accident, if you do not, you will be facing the possibility of being sent to collections. Personal injury cases often take many months, if not years, to resolve. Treatment providers will rarely wait this long before sending something on to collections, and, as we discussed above, they are allowed to do so even if someone will eventually be on the hook for that bill. This does not mean that your insurance company will not be reimbursed. They will usually send a lien to the other insurance company stating their expectation to be repaid once a settlement is reached.
3) Communicate with billing departments to avoid being send to collections:
Often times treatment providers will give you some breathing room in order to resolve your case if you contact them to let them know the situation. You may have to offer small payments to appease them. However, if you can avoid it, try not to pay the entire bill. If you are forced to pay out-of-pocket before the case is resolved, don’t forget, that these amounts are often negotiable. You may be able to pay far less than the amount originally billed. If this transpires, make certain you have a full release of your obligations so that they don’t come back at you for the rest later.
Dealing with the bills is scary. It is hard to explain to clients that while those bills will eventually get paid, we can’t force the other insurance company to pay anything as the treatment occurs. However, having an attorney allows you to have a knowledgeable team member running interference on your behalf. Please call us if you have been injured in an accident as a result of someone else’s negligence. Sometimes, just understanding the process is enough to decide that you can, in fact, proceed on your own. However, you may just realize that you want a trusted professional working for you.