One might assume that the biggest risk for handling an auto accident or other injury case is that a non-lawyer will receive less compensation for their injuries. While that is statistically very true, we find the biggest risk is the long term issue with your credit due to mishandling of medical bills.
YOU are responsible for getting those medical providers paid
Most injury victims do not realize that the at-fault party will NOT pay your medical bills while you are treating. Only after settling the case, are you provided the money necessary to pay for those medical treatments. But, the trick is that you are deemed to know how much you should have settled for so those providers are all paid. That is a BIG challenge and risk! And, don’t forget that, if your medical insurance company paid the tab while you were treating, you are required to pay them back! If you have an ERISA plan, that could be dollar for dollar even if your settlement is less than the amount you owe back!
Even the most careful and clever folks become victims
Trick #1—You will rarely know what you owe back (i.e. subrogation) for at least several months following your treatment. If you do not know what you owe to every provider, you risk accepting too little money from the at-fault driver and you will be paying out of your own pocket! This happens to many people every year because they accept a settlement in the first few months after the accident and have no idea what their actual pay back will be.
Trick #2—The medical providers have up to one year to bill for their services. If they think they will get more money out of a personal injury settlement compared to the contractual amount with medical insurance, they wait that year out. Perhaps your regular insurance amount to pay back might have been $250 for the Emergency Room physician but, without that contractually reduced amount, you have to pay the total $950 since you settled under the one year mark.
Trick #3—In many cases, no one is paying those medical providers while you are waiting to settle your case. In rare cases, the provider will “hold” the bill or go ahead and submit to your medical insurance. However, a majority of providers will simply send you to collections or file medical liens. This causes many people to feel “forced” to settle before they really know the extent of their injuries and how much they will need to pay back. To avoid harming their credit, they prematurely negotiate an inadequate settlement with the at-fault party’s insurance company. Again, this leads to issues with trick #2 (over paying for services) and also undervaluing the actual out of pocket expenses you owe.
It’s not you…even lawyers struggle with this stuff!
We recently attended a continuing education class that discussed the value of various software programs to manage medical records ledgers and records requests. The presenters made a point that, in a large survey of personal injury attorneys around the country, most reported that they spend between 30%-50% of their time simply managing medical bills and provider liens. That is a lot of time and we’re talking about people who do this every day!
Don’t get duped!
Don’t get duped by the insurance companies. You will get an offer within a week or two of your accident and a few more in the month or two following it. Insurance companies know they will pay pennies on the dollar if they can get you to settle before you realize what you owe for your care. Be very careful because you are deemed to know the law and the consequences of your actions when representing yourself. Don’t put yourself in a financial mess. Personal injury lawyers only make money if you make money. This is called a contingency fee. And, according the insurance council’s own inside study, injured parties who are represented by an attorney receive nearly 3x more in their settlement than those representing themselves.
Personal injury lawyers don’t get paid unless you do..so take the time for a free consultation!
So, on top of avoiding the risk to your credit or being “upside down” on medical bills, you are wise to partner with an injury lawyer to go over the facts of your case. Consultations are free and there is no obligation. Protect yourself from further financial injury by just taking a few minutes to know the risks of your case.
You do not need to live in Kitsap County to use our services! Just call. We have offices in Poulsbo, Gig Harbor, and Bremerton but, with new covid protocols, we are now handling about 95% of our cases via phone or zoom. You have no risk by calling or signing up with us. If calling isn’t your thing, you can start by texting or emailing. We’re flexible and we’re here for you 7 days a week so there is no reason to take the risk with medical liens! Get help today.