​Who Is Responsible for Paying Your Medical Bills After a Car Crash?

After you have suffered an injury in a car accident and got treatment, you will likely receive a lot of medical bills you weren’t prepared to have to pay. You may wonder who is responsible for paying your medical bills after a car crash and how you can seek compensation.

In most cases, the at-fault party’s insurance company will cover your medical expenses. However, insurance companies are notorious for disputing claims or even denying them altogether to limit the amount they have to pay. Seeking compensation can be challenging, and you will need an experienced personal injury attorney for help.

Financial worries are in the front of your mind when you have suffered an injury in a car accident. Even though you need to focus on your own health, you cannot help but feel stressed when you do not have any money coming in while you are facing large bills. Learn more about how to get your medical expenses covered after an injury accident from our experienced personal injury lawyers.

You May Have Some Coverage for Medical Bills

Chances are that you will have to pay some or most of your medical bills at some point. In many states, car insurance policies must provide personal injury protection (PIP) as part of your car policy. The minimum requirement for PIP protection is $10,000. Hopefully, you have elected for additional coverage because $10,000 can be exhausted by one trip to the emergency room. For many car accident injuries, $10,000 is nowhere near enough to pay for the medical bills.

Your health insurance provider will not pay your bills if there is another possible payer for your medical expenses. Therefore, your personal injury protection should cover your initial medical bills resulting from your car accident injury treatment. This coverage kicks in regardless of who was at fault for the car accident.

Another alternative to PIP is MedPay. However, you are better off with PIP because it also covers a small amount of your lost wages and replacement costs for services. Using your PIP coverage does not prevent you from seeking a settlement from the responsible driver’s car insurance policy.

Your Health Insurance May Cover Amounts Above Your PIP (For Now)

If your PIP coverage is exhausted, or you do not have it in the first place (again, you absolutely should have PIP insurance coverage), you will then turn to your private health insurance company to pay your medical bills in accordance with the terms of your coverage. Your own insurance company will have a legal obligation to cover your costs under the terms of your policy until someone else assumes legal responsibility for your costs.

You May Also Have Financial Responsibility for Your Medical Bills

At the outset, you are responsible for paying any outstanding medical bills associated with the car accident. Hopefully, you have health insurance that will cover your expenses while you wait for a possible car accident settlement. Even if your health insurer picks up the tab in the interim, you may be responsible for your own share of the costs.

Regardless, there will be quite a cost burden on you and your family. You will be personally responsible for your bills if you do not have health insurance coverage. Medical bills after car accidents have driven some car accident victims to bankruptcy.

You May Have Significant Medical Bills in the Future

Beyond the initial medical treatments you receive, there may be a need for extensive follow-up care in the future. If your car accident injuries are serious, you may need further surgical procedures and extensive rehabilitation. In addition, you may need expensive prescriptions and medical equipment for your daily life.

The range of medical costs after your car accident can vary significantly. In a worst-case scenario, your medical bills can reach into the six figures.

Some serious personal injuries can mean significant medical bills. For example, if you or a loved one has suffered a traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury, there may be millions of dollars in future medical bills.

 

The Medical Costs that Your Car Accident Settlement Covers

Your car accident settlement will cover:

  • The cost of the past medical services that you or your health insurance company has paid (you do not need to reimburse your auto insurance provider for the money paid out from your PIP, so your settlement will not need to reflect that)
  • The expected costs of your future medical care – these costs will need to be thoroughly documented based on medical opinions from your treating physician and estimates of what medical care may cost in the future.

Estimating Future Medical Expenses Can Be a Challenge

Seattle Car Accident Lawyers

You must also focus on your future medical needs when negotiating a car accident settlement. By the time you reach the settlement, you have likely reached the point of maximum medical improvement.

You should have a strong idea of your future medical care needs. Therefore, you need a very educated estimate of your future medical costs because your financial future can depend on it.

If you underestimate your future medical costs, you will have much less of the car accident settlement for yourself. The money you were counting on to pay lost wages and compensate you for pain and suffering can get eaten up by medical costs if your estimate is too low.

Your Car Accident Lawyer Can Help Estimate Your Damages

An experienced car accident lawyer has the experience necessary to work with experts and doctors to understand your prognosis and future medical needs. They can help you determine the starting number you will use in settlement negotiations with the insurance company to determine a fair settlement.

You can count on the insurance company to both downplay the severity of your injuries and underestimate the extent of your medical costs. They want you to sign away your legal rights for cheap, and they do not care if you run out of money in the future.

Your Car Accident Settlement Must Cover Your Future Medical Bills

Your health insurance company will no longer be on the hook for the medical bills in the future because there will now be an alternate payer. The responsible party in your car accident will have an obligation to pay your bills in the future. Your car accident settlement should pay for both your past and future medical bills.

While medical providers will send you bills, they will understand that you are a car accident victim who cannot pay those bills right away. You will get a certain period of time to pay the bill. You can negotiate a payment plan with the medical provider. If you have a personal injury lawyer handling your case, they can speak with the billing provider on your behalf.

You Would Need to Reimburse Providers from Your Settlement for Past Medical Expenses

Eventually, the healthcare provider and your health insurance company will expect payment for your bills. They will reserve their place in line for when you get money to ensure they receive payment. Otherwise, you will get a windfall by recovering damages without the medical bills being satisfied. These providers will do everything they can to get paid as much as they are due.

Medical providers can place a lien on your settlement or jury award to ensure they receive payment. The lien does not mean that you do not get any money. Instead, it means that the provider must receive payment before you can receive money from your settlement. Your personal injury lawyer can negotiate the lien with the provider or health insurance company to persuade them to accept somewhat less than the full amount.

A lawyer knows how to speak with these professionals because it is a regular part of their practice. On your own, you may not know how to negotiate with a hospital or health insurance company.

You Must Get Enough Money to Cover Past and Future Expenses

Knowing that the provider can place a lien on your settlement, you must negotiate an adequate settlement amount to make sure you get full compensation. State laws might limit the liens that a medical provider can place to ensure you still receive some compensation after a settlement. In many cases, the size of the lien cannot exceed 25 percent of the personal injury settlement or award. However, the provider can ask you to sign a waiver that allows them to collect more than this amount.

Again, your personal injury lawyer can negotiate with the individual provider to help protect you to the fullest extent possible. You may have to show proof of legal action to the medical provider, so you should be actively engaged in the legal process.

Legal Requirements for Medical Liens

There are some requirements for medical liens:

  • The provider must file them in the county where the healthcare services occurred
  • Providers must file within a certain timeframe and before you receive your settlement
  • The provider must move to enforce the lien within one year after filing it, or they must re-file the lien.

Other Parts of Your Car Accident Settlement

Knowing this, your car accident lawyer will work to negotiate the best possible settlement for your car accident injuries.

Not only must you get full compensation for your medical bills, but you must also get full payment for:

  • Lost income to pay for the time that you have missed from work or money that you did not earn because of your reduced capacity
  • Pain and suffering for the ordeal that you are going through since you have suffered an injury
  • Loss of enjoyment of the life that you enjoyed before the accident
  • Emotional trauma and distress that you suffered from the car accident

Much of the estimates of your damages will largely depend on your medical bills. For example, pain and suffering damages are usually calculated based on a multiplier applied to your medical bills. If you do not understand the full extent of your medical situation, it can cost you money in the long run. Therefore, it is up to you to seek medical treatment and understand your medical condition before you file a claim with the insurance company.

You Should Always See a Doctor and Stick with Your Treatment

Even with the cost worries after your car accident, you should never hesitate to get the medical care you need after the crash. You must see a doctor and follow their treatment recommendations if you want full compensation for your car accident injuries.

You have an obligation to do everything in your power to reduce your own damages, and seeing a doctor is the prime example of what you must do. Otherwise, the health insurance company may even question whether your medical condition stemmed from your car accident.

Contact an Experienced Attorney Right After Your Car Accident

Then, you must contact an experienced attorney to handle your car accident claim. There is no insurance claim that is too minor to benefit from the legal help that a skilled accident attorney can provide. You do not want to try to deal with the insurance company on your own because it will often cause you to lose money.

Insurance companies are experts in taking advantage of a self-represented claimant. Many people do not realize how much money they have sacrificed in the name of saving money until it is too late. You should get legal help as soon as possible because issues like medical bills can hit you very early in the process.

Never hesitate to properly treat your car accident injuries because you have concerns over how to pay your bills. Getting medical treatment is not only critical to your health, but also to your injury claim. You must have proof that you suffered specific injuries in your crash and how serious those injuries are.

Once you receive treatment and your health is stable enough, then begin worrying about your legal rights and compensation. A car accident lawyer is ready to evaluate your legal options and begin pursuing a settlement or award on your behalf.

January 8, 2024
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