In a split second, a car accident can change your life. Crash!!! You are injured. Suddenly, you have a lot of worries. How do I get medical care? Will I heal? Can I keep working? Who will pay the bills?
Most people have very little experience handling the difficult medical (and other) issues following a serious car crash. It’s easy simply to sign whatever the medical provider or lawyer puts in front of you. However, some providers (both medical and legal) are not looking out for your best interest.
What’s the number one goal following a serious injury? Get better as quickly as possible! Healing is (and should be) the top priority. I know medical bills and costs are one of the most stressful issues for injured people. So, how should medical bills be handled in a car accident?
If You Were On-The-Job, Look First To Workers’ Compensation For Treatment
I met with someone earlier this week who suffered a serious work-related injury. This young person suffered a horrible accident in an explosion and required emergency care at UAB Hospital. While in the hospital, a man came to her room, identified himself as a “patient advocate” and had her sign a contract with a local lawyer. Think about that — What kind of creep preys on someone like that? The billboard lawyer who sent someone to the hospital wanted to sue the manufacturer of the equipment that exploded. But, he did not care at all about helping the young lady get necessary treatment through work comp. He completely messed up her medical care. Because of that, she suffered needlessly.
If you are hurt on-the-job, look first to workers’ compensation. The Alabama work comp system is unfair in a lot of ways. But, it can provide needed medical care.
If You Were NOT On-The-Job, Use Your Health Insurance Or Health Plan
What if you were not on-the-job when the accident happened? Every day, people are hurt in car accidents on their way to work, way to school, running errands, or any number of other reasons. If you are not eligible for work comp benefits, use your health insurance. If you have health insurance or health benefits, you should absolutely use them to get needed treatment. You should be suspicious of anyone who tries to sell you on some other arrangement!
Consider Options ONLY If Work Comp And Health Insurance Are NOT Available
This is important. Too often, lawyers or clinics convince accident victims to obtain treatment outside their health insurance.
In auto accident cases, we now have a whole industry of billboard lawyers who have side agreements with a local chiropractic clinic. Here’s how their operation works — You get in a wreck and hire the billboard lawyer. That lawyer then sends you to his chiropractor. You think everything is fine because you are not receiving bills. Maybe the lawyer told you it would all be “taken care of” with your eventual settlement. But, this can be a real bad deal for you. Why? That billboard lawyer and chiropractor are going to run-up the charges and take more of your settlement money. Over the years, I’ve heard so many horror stories from people who hired one of these television lawyers only to have all their settlement money taken by the lawyer and chiropractor. If you have health insurance or coverage, use it. That includes private insurance like Blue Cross as well as public plans like Medicare, Medicaid or Tricare. Don’t consider other options if you have coverage.
Although I just ranted about bad lawyers with bad medical agreements, it’s not always the lawyer. In recent years, many therapy clinics have begun refusing to bill Blue Cross (or some other health provider). Instead, these clinics bill you for the full amount but wait to collect. In the end, that arrangement is going to cost you more. Sometimes, it costs a lot more! If you have health insurance, insist the clinic take it. Otherwise, go somewhere else. We have plenty of really good clinics in our area who will take your health insurance.
As you can tell, I feel strongly that health insurance or work comp benefits should be your first options for care. What about situations where neither is available? What if you have no health coverage but still need medical treatment for your injuries? You still may have options.
Medical Payments Coverage. Many people have this extra coverage on their Alabama automobile policy. The coverage is often limited but will pay medical bills up to a stated amount.
Medical Liens. Alabama has a hospital lien statute. For years, hospitals routinely filed liens against all accident victims. Both Huntsville Hospital and Crestwood Hospital regularly asserted liens for the MAXIMUM charge.
The medical lien statute protects people with NO health insurance by allowing the hospital to treat accident emergency victims subject to later payment. But, hospitals were abusing the statute and asserting liens for the maximum charges against people who had other benefits as well. So, the Alabama Legislature recently amended the law to protect people with coverage from being abused by the local hospital. I’ve written several articles on hospital liens in Alabama that you can read here on my blog.
Letters Of Protection / Liens Through Attorney.
Some doctors will provide treatment without upfront payment if you have an attorney. This system does help some accident victims get necessary medical care without health insurance.
In recent years, this process has been abused by some settlement mill lawyers. How? Instead of helping their clients get needed treatment at a legitimate or reasonable cost, these attorneys have an arrangement with a specific clinic who provides treatment but charges a high rate. At settlement, those lawyers then pay themselves and the clinic at your expense. Settlement mill lawyers abuse accident victims at their most vulnerable time.
I’m not saying to never enter a letter of protection arrangement. However, it should be one of your last choices when you have little or no options. And, you must be able to trust your lawyer. Before you enter this arrangement, ask yourself if you trust your lawyer to protect your interests first.
Medical Funding Companies.
In recent years, some companies have started funding medical expenses. Again, this should be one of your last options. Are you being overcharged? Are you getting the care you need? Do you trust your attorney to work for you? You need to take a really good look at the issues before agreeing to treatment using liens or funding companies. Your case is too important.
If you’ve been injured, consult with an attorney who understands medical costs and the impact they have on your claim. Consult with an attorney who will put first your interest! I write about this topic frequently because it so important in Alabama personal injury cases.
We are Alabama accident and injury lawyers. From our office in downtown Huntsville, we represent personal injury victims statewide. We believe everyone should have access to authentic and trustworthy legal information. So, we are happy to answer your questions. Our consultations are always free and confidential.