All too often, people who have been through a car crash find themselves dealing not only with serious physical pain but tremendous financial uncertainty and stress. Their injuries may require many doctor visits, physical therapy and other treatments, or even multiple surgeries. They may have to miss work. Meanwhile the hospital bills and other costs of their treatment are piling up.
Fortunately, there is more than one path through the thicket of expenses that can arise from a life-changing collision that wasn’t your fault. A knowledgeable personal injury attorney can help you choose the path that’s right for you and provide the assistance to guide you through the difficult period between the day of the accident and the day your claim is settled.
KNOWING YOUR OPTIONS
Many of the issues people face in paying medical bills after an accident arise from the way the claims process works. Ultimately, the at-fault party is responsible for compensating you for the injuries you’ve suffered. But it can take months to establish liability, evaluate the extent of your injuries, substantiate your claim, and reach a fair settlement with that party’s insurance company. In the interim, your treatment providers expect to be compensated immediately — and, no matter how strongly you may feel that you were not at fault or expect to recoup your losses down the line, they typically hold you responsible for paying your bills.
Your first line of defense should be the insurance you already carry. If you have private health insurance or Medicare, it’s likely that coverage will be available for at least some of the medical costs associated with the accident. If you have medical payments coverage (also known as MedPay) as part of your auto insurance, even better. MedPay can cover health provider copays and deductibles that your private health insurance doesn’t, as well as many other costs; whether it’s considered “primary” coverage or supplemental to your health insurance depends on the terms of the policy.
In many cases, health insurers will seek reimbursement for medical costs they’ve covered through a process known as subrogation (see the discussion of liens, below); essentially, money that is awarded to you for medical costs as part of your settlement is then assigned to them, so you don’t end up paid twice for the same expenses. But what happens if you don’t have any health insurance?
WHAT IS A MEDICAL LIEN?
Typically, a medical lien might be filed by a doctor, a hospital, or some other health care provider involved in treating your injuries from the accident. This arrangement is common if the patient doesn’t have health insurance so that you can receive treatment without having to pay upfront; the medical bills are then paid out of the settlement obtained from the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
A lien might also be filed by your own health insurance company to recover the costs it incurred for your care. This is known as subrogation, and the extent to which your insurance provider can put a lien on your settlement is largely dependent on the terms of the policy and state law. In Colorado, the subrogation law imposes significant restrictions on the practice and precludes such liens entirely in certain instances. In other words, it means that the settlement must “make the plaintiff whole” before the health insurance company is entitled to a refund in subrogation.
Another possibility is to turn to finance companies that offer “car accident loans,” secured by your future settlement. But some of these companies offer more equitable terms than others, and interest and fees should be considered before embarking on such an arrangement. Before signing any documents dealing with liens or loans, it’s important to review them with your personal injury attorney.
Your attorney can help you find the treatment providers you need and address how these providers will be paid — and may be able to negotiate the release of a medical lien for less than the total amount sought. By getting the bills paid and securing a fair and just settlement, a savvy personal injury lawyer can help you worry a lot less and concentrate on healing.
THE CAR ACCIDENT LAWYERS AT FRANKLIN D. AZAR & ASSOCIATES
For more than thirty years the attorneys at Franklin D. Azar & Associates have helped thousands of injured people obtain complete and timely compensation for their losses. Our proven track record and expertise have allowed us to grow into the largest personal-injury law firm in Colorado, with offices in Denver, Aurora, Thornton, Fort Collins, Greeley, Grand Junction, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo. If you’ve been injured in a bus, car, truck, or motorcycle accident, you may be entitled to compensation. Please call the car accident attorneys at FDAzar day or night or contact us here for a free consultation and no-obligation evaluation of your case.