You’ve been in a wreck. You’re injured. You need medical care. The doctor’s office says they won’t accept your health insurance and the auto insurance company for the at-fault driver won’t pay your medical bills (or maybe they won’t even return your calls). What do you do?
Auto liability insurance does not work like health insurance. They are not going to pay your medical bills as you go along. The auto insurance company expects you to go out and get all the medical care you need and then, when you’ve completed all of your medical care, they want you to gather your medical bills and ask for reimbursement in one lump sum. That’s right. You only get one bite at the apple. It’s a one time settlement payment. And you cannot go back later and ask for additional money if your injuries turn out to be worse than you thought.
Getting medical care after a car wreck can be complicated and frustrating. A common mistake is failing to contact an experienced injury lawyer as soon as possible. That error may result in a “gap” in medical care, which the auto liability insurance company will use to argue that you did not go to the doctor because you were not really injured. The insurance company knows it’s not true, but they don’t care about that. Their goal is to pay you the least amount of money possible.
You may have been transported to the hospital by ambulance. Or you may have gone to the Emergency Room on your own. In either case, you will be billed for the treatment you received–whether you have insurance or not. But what do you do after that? This article generally describes your options. However, any person injured in a car wreck should at least consult with a lawyer for advice–whether the lawyer is actually hired in the case or not.
- Health Insurance: If you have health insurance coverage, you should use it, Some medical providers falsely tell you they cannot or will not accept your health insurance because it was a motor vehicle wreck. The doctor’s office does not have a choice. As long as they are a member of that health insurance plan, they must accept it. You’ll still be responsible for deductibles and co-pays associated with your plan, but it sure beats having to pay the whole amout out of pocket!
- PIP/Med Pay: You may have Personal Injury Protection (“PIP”) or Medical Payments (“Med Pay”) coverage on your own auto insurance policy. That coverage is available any time you are in a wreck. Those coverages typically provide benefits of $2,500 but they limit on your policy may be higher. PIP and Med Pay can be assigned to medical providers so the doctor’s office can bill your auto insurance company up to the amount of your coverage limit. You should consult a lawyer before using PIP/Med Pay because there may be strategic reasons to use the coverage for some bills but not for others.
- Letters of Protection: You’ll need a lawyer for this. A Letter of Protection (“LOP”) is an agreement made with the doctor’s office by your lawyer promising to pay the bill from the settlement proceeds. Doctors are not required to accept LOPs, but many doctors will do so. Most chiropractors and physical therapists will gladly accept LOPs.
- Litigation Loans: You’ll need a lawyer for this one too. You can borrow funds for medical treatment, including surgery, MRIs and other expensive treatment. Some loans are ZERO % interest, because the lender obtains a discount from the medical provider while charging you the full price. This can be an excellent way to obtain expensive medical care.
- Attorney Loans: If your injuries are severe and there is sufficient auto insurance coverage available to adequately pay your claim, an injury lawyer may be willing to pay all or some of your medical treatment costs to assist you in getting the medical care you need. The lawyer is repaid when your case is resolved.
- Medicaid & Other Government Benefits: If you already received medicaid, medicare or other government benefits before your wreck, then you should be able to use that coverage for your auto accident injuries. It is possible you may qualify for government benefits after the wreck. In that case, medicaid may actually go back and pay all of your medical bills from the date of the wreck. Keep in mind, virtually all government benefits require repayment if/when you recover money in your case. An experienced injury lawyer should be able to negotiate a significant discount when your case is resolved.
- Pay As You Go: This is the option of last resort if you do not have insurance coverage available to you and no one will lend you money.