If I am hurt in a wreck, what do I do about medical bills? Doesn’t the other driver’s insurance take care of that?
The answer to the second question is yes … eventually. Before I explain why the word “eventually” is needed, let me answer the first question and give you a quick guide on how to handle medical bills that arise from injuries sustained in a car crash.
First, make every effort to submit your bills to your health insurance company (e.g. Blue Cross Blue Shield, Humana, United Healthcare, etc.). These companies, just like most third parties that make payments on your behalf when you are injured, have a right of subrogation according to the contract they have with you. That means that they get their money back at the end of your case. They are, however, legally obligated to accept a reduced amount based on your attorneys fees and litigation expenses incurred in the case. In addition, your health insurance company is going to pay the least amount to each of your medical care providers in the first place, because the big health insurance companies like the ones listed above all have negotiated very good rates for payments on medical charges. For example, Blue Cross may pay $100 on a procedure that the hospital bills at $250. If you had to pay out of pocket, you would have to pay $250. If your health insurance company only pays $100, then when they are paid at the end of your case, the health insurance company would likely get less than $70 because of the reductions required under the law.
Second, if you have outstanding medical bills after your health insurance coverage is exhausted or if you don’t have health insurance, submit as much of your bills as you can to your own auto insurance company. You likely have medical payments coverage in your auto insurance policy for this exact situation. Many medical payments coverage policies are typically around $5,000 but can be as much as $50,000. Again, your auto insurance company will be obligated to accept less than what they pay on your behalf under the law. However, State Farm or Allstate will likely pay more than Blue Cross for any given medical procedure. That’s why submitting bills to your auto insurance ranks #2 on this list.
Finally, if you have to pay out of pocket but cannot afford to do so, there is the option of asking the medical provider to put a lien on the case. Sometimes, the medical provider will do this whether or not you ask. The medical providers will make more money by submitting a lien (a legal obligation of the injured party and his or her attorney to pay the bill directly out of the settlement) than they will submitting the bill to your health insurance. Under this scenario, the hospital receives the full $250 for the procedure mentioned above regardless of whether or not you have health insurance. So, you should try to avoid this if you can. However, if you are unable to afford payments, this option can be beneficial.
And now, the “eventually” … at the end of your case, the insurance company for the at-fault driver will settle the case or have to pay you because you won the trial. Except for rare circumstances, the insurance company of the at-fault driver will not just pay bills as they are received. They don’t typically deal with claimants that way. Rather, they want to make one payment to resolve the case and be done with it. This is often why individuals become frustrated dealing with insurance companies directly, because bills come in and remain unpaid for this exact reason. This is why you need to hire a lawyer if you have been injured in a car crash. Once you settle your case or win at trial, a portion of the amount will be paid back to those who made payments on your behalf for your injuries. We can help minimize that amount.
If you have any further questions about these issues, contact a lawyer at Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard. The lawyers at SS&P have vast experience in negotiating and resolving the subrogation rights of health insurance and auto insurance companies as well as liens from medical providers. They work hard to maximize the amount that ultimately goes to their clients.