Repayment Measures You Might Not Have Considered
When you've been injured in an accident, you want to go home and eat chicken soup in your pajamas. You don't want to think about the hospital or medical bills. Or paying those medical bills.
But adult life calls.
Paying medical bills will be the biggest issue after an accident, and that will take precedence over other obligations. This can be very difficult, but working with your attorney during this time will help you discover that there are many options available to make sure that you receive the proper medical care that you need without causing undue financial stress.
Even if you don't currently have a lawyer, there are options for paying medical bills after a car accident that will help, though having an attorney is usually a plus.
Car insurance can cover up to $25,000 of your medical expenses, depending on where you live and what the laws of your state are.
Fault States: Insurance companies pay based on each party's degree of fault in this tort-based system.
No-Fault States: Parties don't sue each other for their injuries; they turn to their own insurance companies under an insurance policy called PIP (Personal Injury Protection). Florida is a No-Fault State, so you would use your PIP policy first and give up the opportunity to sue the other driver.
Florida also has what's called "MedPay," or Medical Pay. Drivers can purchase this coverage as part of their plan, though it's not legally required like PIP is. This will cover any remaining balance after PIP pays on a medical bill. This coverage comes in handy if you are seriously injured, as PIP only goes to $10,000. At that point, you would start submitting your claims to your personal health insurer. MedPay helps to fill any gaps. Keep in mind, this is just for medical expenses.
Personal health insurance
Once the amount under your car insurance policy has been maxed out or exhausted, some states allow your private health insurance to cover some expenses. This generally depends on state law and public policy. However, the remaining bills would remain the responsibility of the injured party.
When the injured party is unable to work, it can become extremely difficult because financial strains become compounded.
You aren't able to work, so you don't earn any money. You potentially lose the job, which leads to less income. Then you can't get insurance because you got it through work. Then you can't get the medical care you need to get better, and you also can't pay the medical bills you've already accrued.
Don't worry. There are still options.
Contingency-based medical billing
Your attorney can help you locate medical providers that bill on a contingency basis.
This means the attorney can arrange with the doctor for your medical care costs to be delayed until a settlement is reached with your insurer over the accident. Once you and the insurer have reached a settlement, your lawyer will reimburse the medical care providers for their services out of that check. Everybody wins!
Any lawyer worth his salt will make sure that your medical bills are part of the settlement offer. That way you won't have to suffer more than you already have. You should also include anticipated future medical costs as well.
Who is responsible for covering medical costs after an accident?
Wouldn't it be great if the person responsible for your misery actually decided to be a good guy and do the right thing? You know – pay your medical bills? Because really, why should you have to pay for an accident you didn't even cause?
Unfortunately, there's no law saying that the responsibly party has to pay for your medical costs.
You can try suing, of course, but there's no guarantee you'll win.
There are times when you might need to see a specialist who doesn't accept contingency-based payments. You'll need to pay out of pocket for these doctors, and they will want to be paid ahead of time. They are very busy and their time is valuable, so you'd better come up with it or that slot is going to someone else – but we have an appointment in six months...?
There is the possibility of obtaining a personal loan or asking your attorney about litigation funding. These are loans held against the eventual settlement you will receive, which do not require a credit check – but they can be costly to repay.
It’s important to compare rates from several pre-settlement lawsuit loan companies before accepting a funding offer. Definitely shop around before committing to one of these.
Unpaid medical bills
There are both short- and long-term consequences to this. In the short-term, your doctors simply might refuse you treatment. This could have a long-term effect on your health and life.
Other long-term effects? Your credit could be damaged. These bills will be turned over to debt collection agencies very quickly, and they will pursue you with ruthless efficiency. The impact to your credit rating will affect your ability to secure a loan or mortgage in the future, so it will be difficult to buy a car, house or other big-ticket purchase.
Your attorney might be able to help delay billing or negotiate a payment agreement with collections agencies.
Where to turn for help
If you don't have insurance options and an attorney hasn't helped, don't panic. There are still options.
Your first thought might be bankruptcy. That would wipe out all the debt to the medical providers, right?
That would also carry a lot of future complications. However, you could attempt to file a Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, in which you pay back a portion of the medical debt through a repayment plan, after which the remainder is discharged, or a Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, if you don't earn a lot of money and don't have much in the way of equity.
First, however, try speaking with your medical provider. There are options such as a medical settlement negotiation, in which you come up with a lower number with which the doctors would be satisfied; a repayment plan; or available options under public health laws.
We understand how complicated and stressful this can be. If you need more help, consider speaking with an Enjuris featured Florida law firm who has worked with and helped many clients in similar situations.
See our guide Choosing a personal injury attorney.