Automobile Accidents: Getting the Medical Bills Paid
If you have been injured in a car accident, you will soon be getting medical bills—in some cases very large medical bills. How do these medical bills get paid? Whose insurance company is responsible for the bills? If paid by a health insurance company, do I have to pay them back? If paid by Medi-Cal or Medi-Care, what do I do then?
The Problem: Regardless of whether you have insurance or not, the medical bills are first and foremost your responsibility. Therefore, if the bills are not getting paid promptly the hospital or doctor will be looking to you personally to make sure the bills get paid. If they aren’t paid on time, the bills will be turned over to a collection agency, and your credit will be jeopardized. This article is to help you get your bills paid promptly and keep your good credit intact. Even though an accident may be the fault of someone else, the doctors and hospital will not wait for you to settle your claim. So what do you do in the meantime?
We will look at four different scenarios:
- An accident where you have health insurance;
- An auto accident where you don’t have health insurance;
- A car crash where you don’t have insurance, but have Medi-Cal or Medi-care;
- An accident where you have no insurance whatsoever.
The Solutions: In auto accident cases where you have health insurance, that should be your primary source to pay bills. You should provide the hospital or doctor with all the necessary information to bill the health insurance carrier directly. Some will not do so if there is an accident claim involved. The reason they do this is they hope to recover more from your accident settlement than they would get as payment in full from your health insurance. Legally they cannot do this. Insist they bill your health insurance. Any co-pays or deductibles remain your responsibility, so get those paid immediately.
Whether you have health insurance or not, most auto insurance policies have medical payments coverage (called “med-pay”). If your policy does not have it, you should get it immediately. This coverage will pay medical bills up to the stated amount of coverage regardless of whose fault the accident is. In cases where you have health insurance, the med-pay coverage is excellent for covering your deductibles and co-pays. This way you have no money coming out of your pocket. In situations, where you have no health insurance, the med-pay will cover 100% of your medical bills regardless of fault.
Medi-Cal and Medi-Care will also provide coverage for accidents if you qualify. The problem with relying on these coverages is that many doctors will not take Medi-Cal and more and more and not accepting Medi-Care. However, if you don’t have health insurance or med-pay, these government programs can help pay bills if you qualify for them.
If you don’t have any type of coverage, the bill is your responsibility to get paid. The hospital or doctor won’t wait for you to settle your injury claim before sending the bill to collections. In these cases, it’s important to work with the billing department to let them know of your situation. A good personal injury lawyer will do this for you. Often they will reduce the amount owed for uninsured parties, and/or will accept low monthly payments to show good faith until your insurance claim is settled.
Wrapping the Claim Up: When you have finished your medical treatment and you have recovered from your injuries, you personal injury claim is ready to be settled. You will then include the full amount of your medical bills in your settlement demand. You are entitled to recovery for these bills even though they were covered by other insurance. In fact, in order to protect yourself, you must include the full amount of the bills, since your insurance carrier will probably be looking for reimbursement out of your personal injury settlement.
After your personal injury claim is settled, you may have to pay your health insurance carrier back for the bill that it paid. Most health insurance companies today claim liens against third party auto insurance settlements. Likewise, most med-pay coverages have a right of reimbursement. The Government coverages such as Medi-Cal and Medi-Care have statutory liens entitling them to recovery from your settlement. The good news is however that all of these lien claims can be reduced by negotiation and knowledge of the appropriate laws. Often lien repayments can be reduced 30 to 50% or more depending on the circumstances.
For Further Information: As a personal injury attorney in the Alameda Oakland area for over 27 years, I have settled over a thousand personal injury claims and resolved countless liens. If you have questions about your personal injury accident claim, feel free to call us at 510-337-1600 or email us for further information on how to get your medical bills paid and keep your good credit protected.