So what do you do when you get medical bills in the mail from an accident? The accident wasn’t even your fault and now you’re stuck with medical bills you can’t afford because your case hasn’t even settled yet.
Consulting with an experienced accident attorney is your first step. The next two basic principles are: 1) Avoid Collections; and (2) Be Patient.
Suffering from an accident can be traumatic enough without having to be sent to collections. You should avoid collections as best as possible. And of course, be patient.
Accident cases may take a long time before they actually settle out. Insurance companies are in no hurry to open up their bank accounts and pay you money. They will take their time and are often misguided in the valuation of accident cases. Their typical under valuation of your accident case will naturally result in a longer litigation period to get them to realize what your claim is really worth.
Since these cases may take months and even years to receive any compensation, it is a good idea to understand how medical billing may affect you and to know what you can do to minimize any negative risks. It is likely that sometime during your accident case you will be confronted with medical bills.
One of the classic ways to deal with a medical provider is to get them to put a lien on your insurance settlement in lieu of billing you up front. That way when your case is settled the medical providers can be paid directly out of the proceeds of your case.
One downside to this approach is that liens have to be paid prior to you getting any money for your self. These liens can and are often negotiated to a much lesser amount. We save our clients thousands of dollars by encouraging medical providers to put liens in place. While not all medical providers will agree to a lien, it is certainly an option to be explored.
Submit to Insurance
Another way of handling your medical bills is to submit them all to your own health insurance company and pay your co-pays/deductible. This allows the medical provider to get paid now and keeps them for sending you to collections while you await your settlement.
One downside to this approach is that your own insurance company may want to be reimbursed for the expenses they paid on your behalf since another individual (i.e. a 3rd party) was found to be liable/responsible for your accident. Again, this is something that we can assist you with during this period.
If you do not have health insurance, and/or the medical providers were unwilling to put a lien in place, then your best bet is to enter into a small payment plan with your medical providers to keep them happy and to keep you out of collections. Many hospitals and medical providers are willing to accept small monthly payments instead of paying the high % fees of collection companies.
Entering into a payment plan with them is a good idea if it keeps you out of collections. Also, settling with them directly on the overall balance is generally possible. They may be willing to accept 50% or less as paid in full. Either way, when you negotiate a payment plan or settlement in full with a medical provider – make sure it is in writing!
Accident cases can take months and may even take a couple of years to settle out. During this time period you will receive medical care and be confronted with a variety of financial scenarios when paying them. It’s best to use a qualified and experienced accident attorney to help you navigate these issues.
With the help of your attorney you may be able to get liens put in place, or bills submitted to your own health insurance carrier. In both cases your attorney can help you negotiate these liens/bills down at the time of settlement and in both cases you are kept out of collections. Alternatively, your attorney can assist you in contacting your medical providers and setting up payment plans for you to make small monthly payments and keep you out of collections.
Accident cases can be complex and you need not be forced into collections as a result of pending medical bills you can’t afford. Avoid collections and be patient.