How? When? What? Handling Medical Expenses after a Car Accident
A major concern for personal injury victims is the medical bills that are inevitably incurred after being injured in a car accident.
Countless personal injury victims go from the scene of the accident directly to the hospital. A few weeks later they receive bills from not only the hospital but also the ambulance that took them there, the ER doctor that treated them and the radiology company who did their x-rays. Not to mention bills for any follow up visits after their initial emergency room treatment.
The arrival of these bills can be overwhelming. Today we are covering the basics of how these bills get paid, when they get paid and what you need to do to make sure they are paid. As you read this post, please remember that here we are discussing the general process of how medical bills get paid. No two auto accidents are the same and every situation may have some fact that differentiates it from the ‘norm'.
Additionally, these posts are not a substitute for speaking directly with an attorney and do not create an attorney/client relationship between us. You should not rely on this post, or any of the others on this blog, for legal advice in handling a personal injury claim on your own. Each accident has its own unique set of circumstances and it would be improper to give out legal advice via blog without knowing the specific circumstances of your case. There is no substitute for speaking directly with an attorney about your specific situation. I recommend you contact us if you would like to discuss the specific facts of your auto accident.
How will these bills get paid?
Assuming the driver who hit you has auto insurance, and they accept liability for the auto accident, the other driver's insurance company will pay your bills. Normally this happens without having to file a lawsuit; that being said, there are always exceptions. As a lawyer our answer to questions is frequently, “it depends”, and there can be different scenarios here where payment would come from other sources. However, in general, if the system works the way it is designed to, the at fault party's auto insurance will handle your medical expenses.
A common misconception clients have is that is that their attorney is paying their medical bills. This is not the case. While your attorney will want to know each place you have gone for medical treatment and how much your bills are, it is ultimately your responsibility to make sure those bills get paid.
When will my bills be paid?
The quick answer is: when your case settles. This settlement often does not come for several months after the bills are incurred. This is because it takes time to complete medical treatment and negotiate a settlement.
In most personal injury cases, settlement negotiations do not begin until you are released from all medical treatment, your attorney has gathered your medical records and bills, and those records and bills have been sent to the insurance company for review. This makes the settlement negotiations much smoother because both sides have the full picture in front of them and can talk intelligently about your case. It is also more efficient to gather all the information needed for negotiations and send it to the insurance company at one time.
Another common misunderstanding many clients have is that your attorney is sending bills to the other driver's insurance company one by one and the insurance company is making individual payments. This is not the case. Personal injury attorneys will generally wait until all medical treatment is completed and send everything to the insurance company at one time.
What do I do with medical bills I receive?
You should send copies of your medical bills to your attorney. They will want to keep track of the total amount incurred and be aware of each place you sought medical treatment. You should keep your attorney updated with every place you seek medical treatment and when you are released from that treatment. As mentioned above, when your treatment is complete, your attorney will request copies of your bills from each medical provider and submit them to the responsible party's insurance company.
This does not mean you can collect bills in the mail and not take any action on them. Remember, your attorney is not paying these bills out of their pocket. If you have sent copies of medical bills to your attorney, you will likely still receive calls from billing or collections companies if you have not, a.) Paid said bill or b.) Reached out to discuss payment.
Do not ignore bills or calls from billing companies. You should take steps to make sure they know your situation. Explain to the billing companies that your medical bills were the result of an auto accident for which you were not at fault. You can also ask to arrange a payment plan, or see if the billing company will put your account on hold until your case is settled and you are able to pay your bills. (Some billing companies will accept as little as $5/month and not send your account into collections – however, this is not a guarantee.)
The bottom line is that your bills are just that, your bills, it will be your responsibility to stay in touch with the billing companies. Sometimes your attorney will assist with this and speak to the billing companies on your behalf; this depends on the attorney and the billing company. However, taking no action is never a good idea when it comes to bills that must be paid.
In sum, your attorney will help ensure your bills are paid and you are compensated after an accident. This, however, does not alleviate you from the financial responsibility of those bills. There will still be steps you need to take to ensure your medical bills are paid.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kelly Powers
Kelly Powers moved to Texas in 2006 and immediately began working at a personal injury law firm in Dallas. In 2009, Kelly started working at one of the largest Personal Injury firms in Dallas serving as the lead paralegal to the founding partner. After passing the bar she was promoted to Managing Attorney of that firm and was in charge of their offices throughout Texas. Throughout her career she has trained with some of the most talented auto accident lawyers in Dallas.
Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.
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