The administrative aftermath of a car accident can be confusing and overwhelming for anyone on top of the physical and emotional pain that accompany an injury. One common question people often ask in our personal injury consultations is whether they should use their own health insurance to pay for their medical care? Most often, the answer to this is “yes.” Getting prompt medical care is critical, and using your health insurance will allow you to do so.
Although the at-fault driver and their insurance (the “liability insurer”) will ultimately be responsible for the medical bills (and other losses) caused by a crash, the liability insurer will not pay those bills as they are incurred. Rather, liability payments are made in a one-time, final lump settlement. Yet, you do not want to settle your case too soon, without assurance that you will not need additional medical care. Therefore, using alternative means, like your health insurance, to cover those expenses in the short term will be necessary.
Although your health insurance may pay the medical providers initially, they will typically try to be reimbursed from your settlement with the at-fault party’s insurance. Our law firm first verifies whether or not the health plan is contractually entitled to be reimbursed and if so, can often negotiate reductions, maximizing what you, the client, get in your pocket. This is an example of how having an experienced personal injury lawyer benefits you in multiple ways.
Medical payment coverage, frequently called Med-Pay, is an often-purchased add-on to an auto insurance policy. It covers medical bills for car accident injuries, up to a certain amount ($5,000 to $10,000 per person is common). This coverage can be used to pay deductibles and copayments and is not limited to the driver or policyholder — it applies to all occupants of the driver’s vehicle.
If you had “med pay” under your automobile insurance company, this can absolutely be used for medical bills, including your copays and out-of-pocket expenses. However, under Ohio insurance laws, you cannot double-dip. If you receive benefits from your own insurer and then eventually from the at-fault party’s insurance, your own insurer will need to be reimbursed in most circumstances.
One of the big things you can do to help your case is document everything related to your accident — and notify your attorney if you receive communications related to your accident. You should document how your physical pain interferes with your daily life, the prescription medications you take, to the doctor and physical therapist visits you go to. All receipts and bills should be recorded. An easy way to document your case is to take pictures of all records, receipts, communications, and bills, and provide them to your lawyer. If you usually have your phone nearby, you can snap a picture and email files quickly to your lawyer.
Unfortunately, medical billing offices will not usually wait for payments owed by the patient just because the treatment was due to someone else’s fault. Because it takes time to resolve claims, there may be an interim period which can be a chapter of financial hardship. No matter what the insurance or financial situation is, our clients can protect their own interests by communicating with providers’ billing departments, setting up payment arrangements when necessary, keeping any accounts of collections, and documenting everything. Ignoring a bill will never make it go away. If you are having difficulty with your bills or if you receive a notice from a third party asking if your treatment is related to an accident, it is important to notify your lawyer as soon as possible.
Gaps in Treatment Hurt You — And Your Case
For your own well-being, you should get the health care you need when you need it. Although your health care records are always private, part of making an insurance claim involves providing records of your care. This means that the claims adjuster from the auto insurance company will see gaps in your medical treatment if you skip medical appointments or delay scheduling medical appointments while you are still injured. The auto claims adjusters and insurance lawyers use these gaps to argue that you were no longer injured because you were not seeking medical treatment during these gaps between medical appointments. Therefore, you should never skip out on medical care because you don’t have insurance or if you don’t have money for a copay. If your medical care shows gaps in treatment, the insurance company may use it against you and may suggest that your injuries were not serious, or even that your initial claims were fabricated or exaggerated.
As personal injury attorneys with more than 30 years of experience representing Ohioans, we’ve seen nearly every scenario and situation imaginable. Our lawyers and staff are always focused on finding solutions and doing everything we can to preserve the value of our clients’ cases and ultimately get them the fair compensation they deserve. In some cases, we can obtain a “letter of protection” from our clients with certain providers. Approaches to unique financial situations are always tailored to our clients’ needs and situations.
If you’ve been involved in a car accident and would like to know more about your legal rights, give us a call. Your consultation is always free, and we are only paid if we recover money for you.