In serious injury accidents, where the driver is taken in an ambulance, there is no choice as to whether you will have medical bills. They are coming! There will be an ambulance bill, ER facility bill, ER doctor bill, and, likely, bills for imaging or blood week. In most personal injury cases we handle, the minimum Emergency Department bill will total close to $10,000.00, assuming imaging was done. This means, even if you have Personal Injury Protection (PIP), which kicks in as first coverage, you will have likely exhausted that coverage in one visit.
The biggest mistake we see at the outset of injury cases is the injury victim will incorrectly assume the medical bills are automatically paid by the at-fault driver’s insurance. In about 95%+ cases, that is false! If liability is determined to be clear (you were deemed not at fault), the bills will eventually be paid or an attorney will pay them on your behalf out of a settlement or jury award. This can take months or years.
It would take way too long time to explain the reasons the medical bills are not being paid by the at-fault insurance at the outset of the case so, in a nutshell, the injuries and acceptable amount of treatment has not been agreed upon and, therefore, the bills will not be paid.
If you wait and argue about medical bills or needed treatment (or you do not have funds to pay the outstanding medical balances), it is highly likely your bills will go to collections. So, do not waste time and energy about the unfairness of this process. While you are arguing, you could be destroying your credit. If you don’t understand this process and are worried about your credit, speak to a personal injury lawyer to advise you about your financial risks.
Again, generally speaking, any wage loss will be reimbursed after the case is resolved and you reach a settlement. However, if you have Personal Injury Protection (PIP), you likely have a wage loss benefit. Many policies will not begin paying until you have missed two weeks of work (not covering the first two weeks). The only way to know your benefits is to contact your insurance carrier and get a copy of your policy.
Pain and Suffering
Your general damages will be determined by many factors. For obvious reason, if the accident recently happened, it would be too difficult to know with any certainty about long-term consequences. If you settle a case early, the adjuster is not going to offer large sums of money because you “believe” there will be pain in the future. Injuries and subsequent pain or treatment will need to have some substantiating documentation.
For serious injuries, it is common for settlement negotiators to be delayed many months or years until the victim has finished medical treatment and any need for long-term care is determined. If the care is continuing beyond the statute of limitations (SOL) for the type of case, a personal injury lawyer will file a lawsuit prior to the SOL expiring. Non-lawyers handling their own cases are held to the same standards as lawyers and must know all of the rules and statute of limitations.
The Problem With Delaying Medical Treatment
Carry Good Insurance Coverage
If you have been in an accident that was not your fault, your medical bills and wage loss should be covered by the at-fault driver. With so many drivers uninsured or underinsured, it is possible you will need to also make a claim with your insurance company, assuming you have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
More and more drivers are on the road without insurance. If they can’t afford insurance, they probably don’t have many assets. This can leave you 100% exposed for any medical bills or loss of income. It may not be fair but be prepared. There is nothing worse that being seriously injured, unable to work, and then financially ruined all due to someone else’s negligence.
You can avoid the financial ruin aspect by carrying a policy with high amounts of coverage. The alternative is just too risky.
Information about Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
Get Knowledgeable Advice
It is painful to answer the office phone and answer a prospective client’s questions when their case is past the statute of limitations. There is nothing we can do. A long delay can be catastrophic to a personal injury case.
We also can’t create insurance coverage when there is none. Again, protect yourself from the worst case scenario by carrying Personal Injury Protection and Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage.
Equally painful is when the injury victim took advice from a non-lawyer and the advice was really bad. Sometimes, people get advice that they will just automatically get 3x medical bills so they inflate the medical care. This is a big mistake. This can lead the injury victim being stuck with some hefty bills!
Understanding “Value” Of A Case
If your case is worth $15,000 and you racked up $50,000 you might find that no lawyer wants to help you. Personal injury lawyers don’t get paid unless their clients “win” and get paid. However, where there is not nearly enough money to even cover the bills, the injury lawyer will certainly not get paid. After months or years of work, the attorney and the client will both be upside down on a case where the client over-treated.
Simply put, cases don’t become more “valuable” because you have a lot of medical bills. All care must be reasonable and related to the accident. The insurance companies know the average jury award for every type of injury in every county in the country. If your injuries would lead to an average jury award of $20,000, do not plan on them offering you $50,000 simply because you kept treating for an extra year or two.
Communication With Your Lawyer
An experienced personal injury lawyer should be keeping track of a client’s treatment and bills. When that treatment total is getting unusually high, the attorney needs to figure out what is happening. A treatment provider might be over-charging, over-treating, or simply not getting proper results. Additionally, the client might be plateauing in results because there are more serious injuries that haven’t been discovered. Hence, chiropractic care won’t resolve the issue because the injury victim might need a surgical consult. These are all issues that the attorney and client should be discussing as the case is progressing.
If you have a non-work place injury and would like to discuss your options, our lawyers are available 7 days a week. (360) 792-1000
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* Note–We do not take medical malpractice cases.