Most car or truck accidents don’t result in injuries. Fender benders and minor collisions, for example, typically leave the vehicles in worse shape than the drivers and passengers. But then there are those unfortunate situations where motor vehicle accidents do cause physical injuries, pain, and sufferings. And while getting the right treatment and care is of the utmost importance, you can’t ignore the stack of medical bills that continues to pile up.
How to Handle Medical Bills After a Car or Truck Accident
5 Things to Know About Medical Bills
In a major car accident, it’s not uncommon for medical bills to amount to tens of thousands of dollars. In serious cases, they could even enter the six- or seven-figure range. As you watch the bills flood in and the costs add up, it’s only natural to question how you’re going to pay for these expenses.
Though every situation is unique and dozens of factors come into play – including fault, location, type of injury, insurance, etc. – there are some general rules of thumb that can help you figure out how to proceed. Here are some specific things to know and do:
- Is Workers’ Comp in Play?
While not typically a viable option, it’s worth considering whether your injuries occurred while on the job (or performing job-related responsibilities that were mandated by your employer). If so, you have a few options. For starters, a workers’ compensation claim may be filed.
If it’s deemed that you have a valid workers’ compensation claim, this will be the first insurance to kick in and handle the medical bills related to your injuries. You can send all of your bills directly to them.
- Look to PIP Insurance
In the vast majority of car and truck accidents, there is no workers’ compensation involved. However, there will usually be personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. Every vehicle is required by law to have PIP insurance. This is the first coverage to come into play with medical bills.
PIP insurance covers out of pocket expenses like pain meds, ambulance transportation, and other expenses that add up – but there’s a limit (typically $3,000). PIP coverage works on a first-come, first-serve basis. This means whichever medical bills are processed first will be paid first. Once you reach the limit, your bills will have to be paid by another source.
- Use Health Insurance
If you’re involved in a serious accident that leads to thousands and thousands of dollars in medical bills, PIP insurance will only take you so far. Eventually, your private health insurance will come into play.
Even if you’re pretty confident that you’ll receive an insurance claim, settlement, or lawsuit money to cover your medical bills at a later date, your insurance company will still go ahead and pay for their portion of the bills. (When money eventually does come through, they’ll use a process known as subrogation to reimburse their expenses with some of the settlement money you receive.)
- Bills Must be Paid
It’s imperative that you understand the defendant doesn’t have to pay for your medical bills on an ongoing basis. Unless you want your bills to go into collection, you – meaning you or your insurance company – have to pay for the bills until a legal judgment or insurance settlement is awarded.
“Even if the person who injured you is clearly at fault, the law does not require him or her to pay your medical bills on an ongoing basis,” AllLaw.com explains. “The only thing the law requires is that, if the other person is found at fault in court, he or she must pay your damages—and in a personal injury case, your medical treatment is a big part of those damages. But the defendant does not have to pay your medical bills as they come in.”
- Hire an Accident Lawyer
As you can see, there are a lot of moving parts and circumstantial variables involved in car accidents, medical bills, and insurance claims. It’s highly recommended that you hire a vehicle accident lawyer to help you navigate the complexities of your case. Attorneys in this space operate on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t owe a dime unless they help you recover money. It’s really a no-brainer.
Adding it All Up
The aftermath of a car or truck accident can prove to be extremely stressful. There isn’t a simple one-size-fits-all solution. The key is to stay focused and to make smart, proactive decisions that put you in the best place to heal – physically, emotionally, and financially. If you follow the steps outlined in this article and hire an experienced accident attorney, you’ll be just fine.