Articles Tagged with medical bills

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Huntsville Accident & Injury LawyersWhen I write a legal article, I never know whether it will gain reader interest. Some of the legal topics I find most fascinating, gain little or no reader interest. I’m often surprised at the articles generating the most readership and commentary.

One topic that always generates questions and commentary — Medical bills in accident and injury cases! I understand why. Medical bills are confusing and difficult to read. Every medical provider uses a different billing format. The charges vary widely. Who would think different hospitals could charge hugely different amounts for the same over-the-counter pain pill? Yet, they do.

On top of the medical charges, add the issue of health insurance and payment. Who pays? Blue Cross. Medicare. Tricare. Medicaid. Some other health plan. How much do they pay? Face it, each health plan pays differently. Most patients are confused by their medical bills when there is NO issue of any accident claim or lawsuit. I get it.

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Blackwell Law Firm: Helping Alabama FamiliesWhat is Alabama’s Survival Statute? Ask yourself, what potential claims survive death and can be filed by an Estate? In our office, we specialize in Alabama personal injury claims. If an injury victim dies BEFORE he can file a personal injury case, will his Estate or heirs be able to file the claim? Alabama’s Survival Statute sets those rules. And, UN-filed personal injury claims do not survive the death of the victim in Alabama.

This can be a big deal. A really big deal. Here is an example — Your neighbor suffers devastating injuries when struck head-on by an intoxicated driver. He is rushed to the hospital. He spends months receiving costly, specialized medical care. His bills grow and grow. Because he cannot return promptly to work, he loses his job. His damages are huge. He is not the only one suffering. His family suffers as well. If your neighbor files a personal injury case, he can try to recover all his damages and losses. What if your neighbor dies? If he filed his case, then his Estate can continue to pursue the claims. What if your neighbor dies before he could file his case? Then, his UN-filed personal injury claim dies with him. His Estate cannot file a personal injury lawsuit. His Estate will face huge claims by the medical providers with no ability to recover money to pay those claims. Is this scenario fair? Is it fair that an Estate can maintain a personal injury claim in one scenario but not the other? Certainly not.

Wait. Doesn’t Alabama allow wrongful death claims? Yes. If the personal injury victim dies FROM his injuries, then his heirs can pursue a wrongful death claim. Yet, this scenario remains unfair for two reasons. First, this provides NO help for the Estate where the personal injury victim died of an unrelated cause. No wrongful death cases exists if the death is unrelated to the injuries. Second, under unique Alabama law, you cannot recover compensatory damages in a wrongful death claim. In Alabama, only punitive damages are recoverable in wrongful death claims. So, the Estate is still left unable to recover for huge medical expenses, lost wages and other specific injury-related costs.

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Blackwell Law Firm - Serious personal injury lawyersA recent article in an insurance industry periodical asks why hospitals charge auto insurers more than health insurers. The article then concludes hospitals use their market power against commercial insurers. Hospital charges are unfair. Hospitals regularly take advantage of people following automobile accidents. However, the insurance article asks the wrong question and reaches the wrong conclusion.

What is the correct question? The article should ask “why do patients with auto insurance claims pay more.” The real focus should be on the actual patients. After all, the patients ultimately bear the real cost of health care. And, patients seeking treatment following an automobile accident often pay more. The injured patient loses in two different ways. First, the patient probably paid health insurance premiums with the expectation of health coverage. Yet, their health insurance goes unused following a car accident or other personal injury. Second, the inflated medical charges not covered by your health insurance — These inflated charges were ultimately paid from the settlement money you needed to cover all your damages.

What is the correct conclusion? The article WRONGLY concludes the higher charges are the result of hospital market power. The article ends by quoting a professor at Johns Hopkins — “If market forces fail to generate a reasonable price for these patients, policymakers should step in to address this market failure.” I’m sure hospitals do use their market power to extract the highest reimbursement possible. However, we are NOT in this predicament solely because of true economic market power. At least not in Alabama. No, we are largely in this position because hospitals have already worked our actual policymakers to pass a law allowing them to place liens on medical care rather than simply bill health insurance. Policymakers have enacted special legislation giving hospitals the authority to interject themselves into liability cases for maximum payment. Let this special use of government legislative power sink in for a moment. Hospitals enjoy a lien privilege not held by others. It’s not called market forces or market failure when you use the political system to gain an unfair advantage. I call it an abuse of government that further harms people.

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Blackwell Law Firm - Huntsville Personal InjuryDo Alabama hospitals treat accident victims differently? The short answer is, YES. If you are an accident victim, you can pay the price for the hospital’s actions. An article published earlier this year in another state tells the story. That story is titled “Man says hospital went after car crash settlement instead of insurance.” That story leads with the following:

You can’t tell the difference in the emergency room. It happens when the hospital is ready to collect its money.

Many of us have some type of health coverage. Blue Cross. Medicare. Tricare. United Health. You assume the hospital will first submit the bill to your health coverage provider. After all, you paid for the coverage. The hospital may even have a contract with your health provider requiring it to submit the bill. Yet, hospitals often treat accident victims differently.

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16687020074_db03aa8ce2_z-300x171Alabama has a significant problem with uninsured drivers. At our firm, we help families suffering because of a personal injury. Car accidents and commercial truck crashes cause many of the injuries we see. Imagine suffering a severe injury only to learn the responsible person has no insurance to help with your damages. That is the scenario many hurt individuals face. Too often, negligent drivers causing injuries on our highways are uninsured. That’s why our firm has long advocated that you purchase sufficient uninsured / underinsured motorist coverage to protect yourself and your family.

Want to know more about why you need sufficient uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage? You can read an article we wrote earlier this year titled Alabama Drivers Need Uninsured Motorist Coverage. You need adequate uninsured/underinsured coverage (also frequently called UIM coverage) to protect your family against both uninsured and underinsured drivers. Too many insured drivers carry the minimum amount possible which is unlikely to compensate you fully for any serious injury.

How bad is the problem of uninsured drivers in Alabama? The Insurance Information Institute has compiled some startling statistics. According to their statistics, Alabama ranks in the top 10 for the most uninsured drivers on the road. That’s certainly not a good category in which to rank within the top 10. In 2015, approximately 18.4% of the drivers in Alabama were uninsured. That’s a huge percentage of people driving cars all around you each day.

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Drawing from Beinecke Library (License link: CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Insurance Journal recently reported the story of a client solicitation and kickback scheme involving several Florida attorneys. The arrested Florida attorneys were charged with paying solicitors for clients and then arranging kickbacks from medical providers. It’s an awful scheme that harms people who are genuinely hurt and need counsel. And, it’s a black eye to both the legal and medical professions.

Every day, I hear the stories of people who are genuinely hurt and need help. Injured people already face struggles — problems with medical care, sudden expenses, potential job loss, the loss of their vehicle, and sometimes, long-term pain or disability. It’s a big list of real worries. Injured people already face an uphill battle against insurance companies who sow the seeds of false doubt at every stage.

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Blackwell Law Firm
You were hurt on the job. You received workers’ compensation benefits. But, a third-party (someone outside your work) caused the accident. You want to pursue a personal injury claim against that third-party.

The workers’ compensation carrier has a lien against your personal injury case. Under Alabama law, your employer (and its insurance carrier) have certain rights to get their money back if you win your personal injury case. At our firm, we routinely represent clients in both workers’ compensation and other personal injury cases. We understand how these areas of the law interact.

What happens when your employer or its insurance carrier file a lien against the third-party negligence case? The issues can be complicated. How you (or your lawyer) handle these issues can tremendously impact your bottom line. I could discuss these issues in significant detail. But, here are four quick tips to consider when handling this type of case:

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A car crashes into you. You suffer personal injuries. You suddenly face problems with medical bills, pain or wage losses. Then, you discover another problem. The at-fault driver has too little or no insurance for your damages. This problem is not rare. It happens more than you think. Many drivers do not have the insurance necessary to cover the harm their negligent driving may cause.

Alabama law requires every driver to have liability insurance. But, the law requires only small limits of coverage. Some drivers choose to ignore the law and drive without coverage. Other drivers purchase only the bare minimum amount. That amount is far less than needed to cover the damages for anyone with a significant personal injury. Many injury victims have medical bills that exceed the minimum liability coverage limits required by law.

I wrote a series of articles in prior years discussing Alabama’s problem with uninsured drivers. These articles also detail efforts by Alabama officials to create a system of insurance verification – a system that would catch drivers who choose to ignore the law and put the rest of us in danger. When I wrote my first article on the topic in 2011, officials estimated up to 25% of Alabama’s drivers did not currently possess insurance coverage. In 2016, Governor Bentley announced the rate of uninsured drivers had dropped significantly. Yet, it still remains too high. You can read some of my prior articles at my other blog, The Alabama Litigation Review.

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I’ve written on several occasions about Alabama’s unique wrongful death law. Wrongful death claims in Alabama are very different. Chief among the issues that make Alabama wrongful death law different — only punitive damages are recoverable. You cannot recover compensatory damages for actual losses like medical costs.

Many lawyers advertise for wrongful death claims. Yet, they fail to understand fully the impact of Alabama’s unique law. And, this lack of understanding can have a tremendously negative impact on the overall recovery for clients.

An attorney’s entire preparation and trial strategy should be designed for the unique damages recoverable in Alabama. Yet, many attorneys prepare these cases as all other cases. That’s a mistake. It is short-sighted and costly for clients.

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I recently published a post discussing the scene of a Las Vegas convention for industry insiders managing workers’ compensation medical benefits. My post is titled — An Industry Built Upon Suffering. It is a true statement — an entire industry of managers has been built upon the misery and suffering of injured workers simply seeking medical care. That’s wrong.

Workers’ compensation benefits in Alabama were created to provide injured workers with medical care. Most injured workers need and desire this care quickly so they can heal and return to work. Instead, we now have an entire industry of benefit managers who work to complicate, delay and deny the needed relationship between an injured employee and his/her doctor trying to help.

Contrast the lavish Las Vegas party of insurance insiders against the typical injured employee. The insiders enjoy excess. Yet, injured employees are often left untreated and unable to provide for their families. While away in Las Vegas, those insiders are receiving messages at their offices from injured workers begging for medical treatment. I hear from injured workers daily who call and call the adjusters asking for care without response.