After a car accident, you go to the hospital, receive treatment, see your doctor, get prescriptions, and take some time off work to recover. At the time, you are not worried about the medical bills. As time goes on, however, the bills come in, insurance deductibles drain your bank account, and before you know it, you are overwhelmed with the cost of an accident.
You assume insurance will kick in soon enough, so you keep waiting it out. A few months later, you receive a letter saying your claim was denied, and now you have no way to pay for your medical expenses – let alone everything else.
When it comes to personal injury claims, the delay between receiving payment and the bills sitting in front of you that are due today tends to stretch itself out. The insurance company might act friendly on the phone and even say they are there to help. But they are stretching you until you are ready to take even a low-ball settlement for financial relief.
There is no doubt that paying for medical costs after an accident becomes an overwhelming burden. Therefore, you need to understand who pays for them, how you can receive money, and your options when the insurance company unfairly denies your claim.
It is a no-brainer to seek medical treatment after a car accident. You did your part and sought treatment only to find yourself facing hundreds (if not thousands) in medical costs. Even if your injuries are starting to heal, you have expenses that came out of pocket and you still have physical therapy and in-home care costs rolling in. The providers of these services do not care that you are waiting for an insurance payout – they want their money now.
Whether you are ready to file a lawsuit or not, you need to understand how the medical bills get paid between the time you are injured and eventually receive a settlement.
There is a common misconception that an injury attorney pays for medical costs while you wait for a settlement, but this is not true. Your attorney does track your medical costs, and they ensure that the damages you receive include all the relevant medical expenses. However, they do not pay the bills for you.
Ultimately, you are the party responsible for your medical bills. When you seek treatment, you sign documents agreeing to such. Therefore, you must rely on your insurance or the other party’s insurance to pick up the cost of those expenses for you. Otherwise, you must use your funds to pay for them.
Even though the other party’s insurance may be liable for those medical costs, you should not take the first settlement they give. Early in the process, especially if it is obvious the other driver caused the accident, you could receive a settlement offer. These tend to come before you have recovered or even have time to assess your injuries.
The company wants you to sign a release of liability and take the money. By signing it, you cannot seek further compensation. They do this hoping that you will be desperate enough for money and not realize that the amount offered is too low for future costs.
Before taking any settlement, you should consult an attorney to see if it is fair. An attorney can evaluate your overall costs and determine if the settlement covers future expenses that you might not have thought about.
While you wait for the other party to settle, you may be able to use your own Med Pay coverage in your automobile insurance policy. Note: this is not guaranteed coverage. Instead, you add on medical payment coverage as an option when you sign up. Therefore, if you did not add Med Pay, you will not have payments from your automobile insurance company.
You may be able to use your health insurance to bridge the gap between the time you need medical care and the time you receive a settlement. This process is known as subrogation. Your health insurance does pay for the medical costs, but only until you receive a settlement. Once you have a settlement, the insurance company will receive the portion paid by them to your medical providers. This ensures that you are not double paid for injuries.
Typically, to ensure payment, the insurance company places a lien on your settlement. That forces your attorney to satisfy the lien before they can legally distribute your settlement.
When your healthcare provider knows that you are receiving a settlement, they may place a lien on that settlement just like insurance. In this case, you and your insurance company do not pay them. Instead, they will receive payment for medical services out of your settlement once your attorney receives it. Again, your attorney must first pay the liens; then you receive the remainder.
Bills that are not covered by your medical or automobile insurance are typically paid once your case settles. The settlement process can take a few months to a few years, depending on how the insurance company defends their side.
Multiple companies will have a hand in your settlement, which may delay the process. Not only do you have the defendant, but you also have the insurance company, billing departments, lawyers, and medical professionals all working to find a settlement – adding unnecessary delays.
Typically, the settlement process starts once your doctor clears you or says that you will not recover any more from your injuries. Your attorney waits for this point because that is the safest point to start seeking compensation. Your attorney does not want to settle before you have reached your full recovery period. If they do, there may be unknown costs in the future that you may have to pay for after settlements are done.
Once you have reached maximum recovery, your attorney will gather all medical costs – and any potential future medical expenses estimated – and work those into their settlement expectations.
One way to ensure that all medical providers are paid, and that you are not obligated to pay out of your pocket later, is to send a copy of the bill to your attorney via mail or email each time you get one. Your attorney will then have a running tally of all medical costs you must have reimbursed in the settlement.
Also, keep copies of medical records and anything you pay for out-of-pocket. This includes:
While you are waiting for a settlement, you may not have the funds to pay for medical costs. Do not let these bills pile up and ignore them. Instead, contact the individuals and tell them that you have a settlement in process. Make sure they understand the situation. Because once you go to collections, the other side is not liable for the added fees associated with that. You are still obligated to pay all medical bills regardless.
Some companies will wait for your settlement, while others will accept small payments until you have the debt paid off. Keep records of any payments you make to these companies so that you receive the payment for them instead of the company itself.
You might wonder why you should hire an attorney if they are not going to help with your medical bills. While your attorney might not pay for them outright, they are there to ensure you get through the process and receive the settlement you deserve. Furthermore, they speed up the settlement process so that your bills have less chance of going to collections or you find yourself broke from paying the costs.
The attorneys at Malman Law have helped countless victims just like you receive the money you need for your injuries. We understand how the process can be overwhelming and even outright frustrating. We are here to help you lessen the burden, negotiate with insurance companies, and get your medical costs paid so that you are not overwhelmed.
Schedule a free consultation with our attorneys today at 888-625-6265 or request more information online about how we can help you.
Malman Law’s founder Attorney Steven Malman has over 30 years of experience handling personal injury, nursing home, medical malpractice, truck accidents, car accidents, premises liability, construction, and workers’ compensation cases in Chicago, IL.
Years of experience: +30 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active and authorized to practice law—Last Registered Year: 2023