You’ve been involved in an automobile accident and were injured. You were taken by ambulance to the nearest hospital, where they took x-rays and did a CT Scan. Maybe you followed up with your primary doctor a couple times since then, or maybe you’ve started treatment with a chiropractor or physical therapist. Regardless of the type of treatment you’ve received or plan on receiving, you are likely highly concerned about how you are going to pay for it.
Where another person is responsible for an accident, their insurance company will ultimately offer you a settlement which should cover the cost of all reasonable and necessary medical bills you may have incurred. However, they will not pay for your bills as they are incurred; instead, they will offer you one lump sum at the end. Because this process can take months or even years, in order to avoid these bills getting sent to collections and negatively affecting your credit, it is best to deal with the bills yourself as they come.
In that regard, the first place to look for coverage is your own automobile insurance policy. An automobile insurance policy can be broken down into various parts; the portion of the policy which could pay for medical expenses is called Personal Injury Protection. Personal Injury Protection, often referred to as PIP, is “no fault” in that the coverage is available for an insured to use regardless of whether they caused the accident or not. A driver’s PIP is also available for use by his or her passengers. Where an accident is between an automobile and a pedestrian, the driver’s PIP is also available for use by the pedestrian. One of the greatest benefits of PIP is that, unlike health insurance, there is no deductible or copay. PIP pays a bill in its entirety.
The second place to look for coverage is your own health insurance. In the context of this post, this includes Medicare and Medicaid. Coverage for medical treatment related to an automobile accident is secondary in that your health insurance company will only provide coverage once they have confirmed that there is no PIP available for your use. Once this is confirmed, health insurance works the same way it does for your regular health care. Whether related to an accident or not, health insurance will generally take care of a portion of a medical bill, often leaving a remaining balance.
Where a person has no PIP and no health insurance, there are a few other options they could try to utilize. Attorneys often work closely with particular medical providers and are sometimes able to get the provider to agree to “hold” the balance until settlement. In this way, the client gets the treatment they need without the added costs and negative effects of the bill going to collections. These providers will often place a lien on a client’s claim which legally entitles them to payment before funds can be distributed to a client.
Of course, there is always the option to pay the bills up front and wait to be reimbursed from settlement, but not many people can afford to do this.
At the end of the day, an injured person’s priority should be to get the medical treatment they need, regardless of how the bill will be handled. The worst case scenario is that the bills go to collections for a short while, then get paid off at the time of settlement. It is always our goal at Newton & Hall, Attorneys at Law, PLLC to recover in an amount sufficient to cover all medical bills incurred, along with any added interest or costs.