Crash!!! You hear the sound of crushing metal. Your body is slammed around the inside of your car. What is happening? In an instant, another driver ran a red light and slammed into you. In the hours and days after the crash, you start hurting badly. You are worried about your health and future. Now, you are dealing with pain, medical care and bills. Today, I want to talk about those medical bills and a common problem in many Alabama car accident cases.
When you see the doctor, it’s easy to tell him/her just to bill the other driver’s automobile insurance company. After all, the other driver was at fault. The insurance company for that negligent driver should pay your bills! While this sounds reasonable, it’s a mistake. It’s a mistake to tell your medical providers to bill the automobile insurer. It’s a mistake made by many accident victims. It’s a mistake that is often encouraged by insurance adjusters and even billboard lawyers who are not looking out for you! It can have a tremendous impact on your injury claim.
It’s an easy mistake to make. First, the other driver should pay. Second, many adjusters imply that you should send your bills. Many adjusters imply the insurance company will pay your medical bills as incurred. Keep in mind, these adjusters are just trying to get information from you.
Do NOT tell the doctor’s office to bill the other driver’s auto insurance. It’s a mistake. You should have the treating physicians bill your own health insurance company. If you don’t have health insurance, you still have other options. I’ve written about some of those other options in prior articles on this blog. Here are five reasons why it’s a mistake to tell medical offices to bill the other driver’s auto insurer:
The At-Fault Insurance Company Is NOT Going To Pay Your Medical Bills As Incurred
I hear the story almost every week. The caller says they had a wreck and spoke with the other driver’s insurance adjuster. That adjuster implied the at-fault insurance company would pay the medical bills. Usually, the adjuster implied the injured person just needed to sign an authorization allowing the insurance company to get the bills. Right! While the adjuster implies they just want to take care of your medical bills, the reality is far different. In truth, the adjuster wants to investigate the claim by digging into your health records as soon as possible.
In a car accident claim, the at-fault insurance company typically wants to pay a one-time settlement. They pay a specific amount of money and you sign a release giving up your claim. They are not going to pay each bill as its incurred.
The adjuster wants you to think otherwise just so they can begin their investigation. If you fall for the adjuster’s false promises or false implications, it will delay your care. It may harm your claim in the long run. It may leave you stuck with bills. How should you handle your treatment? If you have health insurance, use it.
When You Bill Your Own Health Insurance, Doctors Are Paid
In Alabama, personal injury cases may take a long time. I know, we have television lawyers screaming they will get you a fast settlement. Those lawyers are running settlement mills. Too often, fast means low in settlement terms. If you have serious injuries, their settlements are often not in your interest.
Instead, you need to complete your medical care. Only then, will you know the true extent of your injuries. I’ve seen plenty of people over the years who thought they were fine in the first few days following a wreck but their injuries became permanent. You need to retain a lawyer who understands the issues and will work to build your case. Medical conditions and issues can be complex. That takes time. You do not need the delays that come when doctors are not paid. When you tell the medical clinic to bill someone outside your health insurance, you are potentially creating a delay in payment.
This issue does not just affect your case. Unpaid bills impact your credit score. And, collection agencies often become involved.
Bill your own health insurance. Keep your medical treatment moving forward. Protect yourself from delays in treatment as well as other problems with unpaid bills.
If You Fail To Bill Your Health Insurer When Treatment Is Received, You May Miss A Deadline
Many health insurance policies have a deadline on claims. If you tell your medical provider to bill the at-fault auto insurer and then the claim takes a long time to resolve, the bill could remain unpaid for months or more. You risk bills that remain unpaid for too long. At some point, your health insurer no longer has to pay.
You Usually Keep MORE Money From Your Settlement When Your Health Insurer Pays The Medical Bills
If you’ve ever seen a hospital bill, you probably had “sticker shock.” Most people do. Your health insurer typically has a negotiated payment rate or schedule. That is, they pay less than sticker price to resolve the charge.
How does that impact you? I’ll explain using the example of a hospital lien. You are hurt in a car crash. You go to the hospital. You are admitted and undergo pretty extensive care. You have a $100,000 bill. If you have normal health insurance, your health insurer will satisfy that bill for a much lower amount. Maybe the health insurer pays only half and the bill is satisfied. Years ago, hospitals would forego health insurance and put a lien directly on you for the whole $100,000 bill. But, a recent Alabama law now requires hospitals to bill your health insurance if you have it. After your hospitalization, you get better. You eventually settle your claim. Your settlement will be used to pay the liens — But, a $50,000 health insurance claim is a lot less than a $100,000 hospital lien. You pay less of your settlement back to medical providers. That means you keep more of your settlement money!
Settlement mill lawyers ignore this issue. But, it is important. You want to obtain the highest settlement possible for your claim. And, you also want to keep as much of it as possible!
You Paid Premiums For The Benefit Of Discounted Rates Negotiated By Your Health Insurer
I mentioned previously that your health insurer negotiated discount rates for medical payments. If you use a traditional health insurer, it has a developed process for handling medical charges that includes reduced payments to satisfy them. That is to your benefit. It speeds the process of care. It keeps bill collectors from harassing you. And, it provides the best payment for your care. Why ignore this benefit and create issues with payments? If you (or your employer) have paid for health insurance, use it. It is to your benefit.
We are Alabama accident and injury lawyers helping people statewide. We approach every case with the philosophy of working hard to maximize the compensation recovered for each individual client. If you have questions about a personal injury issue in Alabama, let us know. We are happy to discuss your issues. Every consultation with our lawyers is free and confidential.