There are a lot of questions and misconceptions people have regarding how your medical bills will be paid following a car accident. Most people assume that if they are injured in an accident due to someone else’s negligence, that person (or more specifically, their automobile insurance) will pay for your medical bills and you will not be out-of-pocket for any expenses. Unfortunately, the process is not that easy and clear-cut.
Regrettably, the at-fault-driver’s insurance (or your own insurance if the at-fault-driver is uninsured) does not pay for your medical bills as you treat. Insurance companies only provide payouts upon submission of the final bills and records (among other important documentation needed to prove liability and your injuries) with an agreement of release from liability. Therefore, it is not possible to submit one bill at a time as you continue to treat.
What this means is that you are initially responsible for your medical expenses and you will not be able to simply forward a medical bill to the insurance company for payment as you go along. Better stated, you are only reimbursed for past medical expenses you have incurred, not fronted money to seek future medical treatment you might need. Once you settle your claim you will not be entitled to any additional payments from the insurance company should you need additional medical treatment in the future. This is why it is always best to wait and settle your claim until you are finished treating and submit all your bills at once. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule when significant long-term future medical treatment is needed, usually in the form of lifetime care or if the statute of limitations is about to expire on your claim.
Should I Use My Health Insurance?
If you have health insurance then you should certainly use your health insurance as you proceed with treatment. You will be reimbursed the actual amount of your treatment, not your co-pay or deductible. For example, let’s say your medical costs are $50,000.00. Through your insurance’s co-pay and/or deductible, your bill is $10,000.00. You would be submitting the claim for settlement based on the $50,000.00 expenses because the law does not treat differently a person with insurance and a person without insurance. Once a settlement is reached, your attorney must satisfy the lien of $10,000.00 by paying back your insurance provider.
If you are submitted a bill before a settlement or award is reached on your behalf, an experienced South Carolina personal injury attorney can contact the medical providers, inform them of your claim and on-going litigation and, usually (not always), the provider will hold off on sending your bills to collection if your attorney keeps them informed of your case along the way. Once a settlement is obtained, you (through your attorney) will be responsible for paying off the medical provider’s lien prior to dispersing the settlement funds.
What If I Don’t Have Health Insurance?
The same holds true if you do not have health insurance. Meaning, you will be responsible for your medical expenses as you treat and will only be reimbursed after a settlement or award is obtained on your behalf. The biggest difference when you don’t have health insurance is the amount you may potentially walk away with at the end of your case because you will be responsible for paying back to full and true amount of your medical expenses. There are often times when medical expenses exceed the amount of available insurance coverage (keep in mind that South Carolina law only requires a minimum of $25,000 in liability insurance and does not require driver’s to have underinsured motorist coverage). In this scenario, an experienced car accident attorney can often times negotiate with the medical providers to reduce their lien amount at the end of your case.
There are also times when medical providers simply will not treat patients who do not health insurance. Although it is illegal for a lawyer to front the cost of your medical expenses, there are certain things a personal injury lawyer can help you with. An experienced personal injury lawyer who has relationships with certain medical providers can negotiate with those providers to offer medical treatment under a “letter of protection.” This is basically an agreement that allows an injury victim to seek medical treatment in exchange for an agreement by the attorney to reimburse the providers once a settlement or award is obtained on your behalf.
Our Law Firm Focuses On The Entire Process
Our goals throughout your case are to provide you with the ability to seek good medical treatment, provide you with a zero balance medical lien at the close of your case, and provide you with compensation to adequately reimburse you for your pain and suffering, possible future medical treatment and any lost wages you have suffered. We try to help our clients throughout the entire process of their case from the initial injury, through medical treatment, all they way up until settlement. We do not simply wait around until you are done seeking medical treatment on your own and then try to settle your case on your behalf. If you have been involved in an accident and are worried about how you will pay your medical bills, please feel free to call our Charleston car accident law firm today at 843-991-6528 to speak with Jared about your options.