Dealing with medical expenses after an accident—5 steps to guide you
After an accident, most victims worry about the looming medical bills they will have to pay. Most people live paycheck to paycheck, so having to take time off from work severely limits their ability to cover their medical expenses. Often, accident victims will delay treatment—either refusing a trip to the emergency room (ER) or waiting to see their primary care physician—because they do not want to deal with the financial stress they believe will follow.
This stress can drive victims to accept an insurance company’s initial settlement offer in the hopes that it will cover the immediate costs of treatment. However, these quick settlements almost always undervalue a victim’s total medical expenses, leaving victims with more bills to pay in the long run.
But what else is a car accident victim supposed to do when he or she is worried sick about paying huge bills?
1. Get treatment.
First, if you have been in an accident, get checked out by a doctor right away. Most people underestimate their own injuries because they think they can simply walk them off. But serious injuries can be hard to spot at first. Not every injury presents itself as a deep cut or a broken bone. That ache in your neck, the strange swelling in your ankle, or the pain below your ribs may be signs of trauma that will only get worse without treatment.
We fully understand your financial worries and fears about medical debt. But your health and recovery are even more important than your bank account. In the long run, avoiding treatment will only cause more harm and add to the costs of your injury. By contrast, getting proper treatment can speed up your recovery time and get you back to work much faster, allowing you to focus on paying your bills.
2. Send your medical bills to your health insurance company.
Also, make sure that all of your medical care is billed to your health insurance company, instead of your auto insurance policy if you were involved in a car accident. Your health insurance can offer more discounts and better coverage after an accident, which can reduce your medical bills.
Often, the emergency room billing staff will ask you to sign an authorization to permit the hospital to bill your auto insurance company for any available medical payments coverage you have on your policy. This document is usually called an Assignment of Benefits (AOB). However, it is not in your best financial interest to sign this authorization. Remember, always make sure you provide your health insurance information to all of your medical providers. Hospitals cannot deny you treatment if you do not sign an AOB.
If you do not have health insurance, don’t let that stop you from seeking medical treatment. Many hospitals and doctors are willing to work out a payment plan. Medical providers have worked with numerous patients going through the injury claim process and will likely have procedures in place for delaying payment. Also, some medical facilities will provide “treatment on a lien” meaning that you will be provided treatment on the condition that your medical bill is paid out of your settlement proceeds from your injury claim. This process helps you get the treatment you need and ensures that your doctor or other medical providers will be paid for their service to you.
Once you have seen a doctor, started treatment, and worked out billing, your next step is to discuss your legal options.
3. Talk to an attorney.
Our team at GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys has worked with numerous clients dealing with injuries and mounting medical bills. Most are unsure about what to do next. Many assume they do not have a case or that their insurance will not cover the costs of their injuries, much less attorneys’ fees.
Fortunately, we offer every client a no-fee guarantee. What does that mean? Essentially, we will not charge you a dime in fees, unless we win your case. Throughout the entire claims process, we will pay the upfront costs of filing your claim—from collecting evidence to hiring experts to review your accident. At the end of the claims process, if we win your case, we will take a percent of the final settlement or trial verdict, but only after you have received the proper compensation.
Beyond that, we can also review your insurance policies to determine what options are available to you.
4. Let us review your insurance policies.
Insurance policies can be tricky if you never fully reviewed what coverage you had, or you simply took the minimum plan offered. Many people buy only the minimum liability and collision coverage plans, but some policies also include medical payments coverage, known as medpay. We have discussed the value of medpay before, and we will always advise our clients to add it to their car insurance policy. For a small increase in your premium, medpay allows you to bill your own auto insurance company for your medical expenses after an accident.
Another important part of your insurance policy is your underinsured motorist coverage (UIM). UIM provides an extra layer of coverage when the at-fault driver has a policy that will not fully cover the costs of your accident. If your claim will only give you a portion of your medical expenses, you can then file against your UIM policy to cover the excess expenses up to your own liability policy limit. All Virginia insurance companies are required to offer this policy, and you can only deny it in writing, so there is a real possibility you have this coverage.
5. Consider moving forward with a claim.
After an accident, many people choose to “grin and bear” the pain rather than talking to an attorney and filing a claim. But more often than not, the amount of money that can be recovered from a claim far outweighs the costs of dealing with the accident on your own. Under a Virginia liability policy, you could file a claim for:
- Medical expenses, both past and future
- Lost wages from time off work
- The costs of lost job opportunities
- The costs of a disability, including medical equipment and changes to your home
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
While most victims are only worried about paying their medical bills, your claim may include far more compensation than you think. That’s why it’s important to have your case reviewed by an experienced Virginia personal injury attorney who can help you determine all the options available to you after an accident and then help you make the right decision for your situation.
We want to help
At GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys, we have an in-depth understanding of Virginia law and insurance policies. Most of our former clients came to us after a traumatic event involving injuries and extensive medical bills, asking for help. We consider it a calling to put in the time and effort to fully review their cases, uncover which policies they can file under, and aggressively advocate for fair and proper compensation.
We offer this same service to every client who reaches out to us in a free, initial consultation. There is no cost or obligation to meet with us. Call us today at (804) 413-6777 or toll-free at (855) 781-6777 and find out if we are the right team to help you.
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Prevention, empathy, and diligence are hallmarks of everything we do at GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys. Our community can see these ideals lived out in our work to prevent personal injuries from happening.
- Safety Education
GibsonSingleton launches a “Texts=Wrecks” campaign to reduce the number of people injured or killed by distracted drivers.
- Annual Coat Drive
During the fall, our team works to distribute coats to people in need in our community.
- Hands-on Service
John and Ken join the Gloucester Point Rotary Club in cleaning up the community.
- Supporting Local Schools
The Gibson family participates in Gloucester’s Botetourt Elementary Shuffle fundraiser.