Your car accident can result in substantial medical bills, especially if you suffer serious injuries. The emergency room visit alone can cost as much as $20,000, especially if you need immediate, high-order care for your injuries. Even minor injuries can send your medical costs skyrocketing, as you deal with follow-up appointments, X-rays, other scans, and physical therapy to help you make a full recovery.
All of those medical bills leave many accident victims with one question: Who pays the medical bills after a car accident? You’ll need to ask an experienced lawyer in your specific situation, but we can provide some general guidance below.
A Look at Car Accident Medical Expenses
Many Americans struggle to pay their medical bills following serious injuries. Even if you carry health insurance, you may face high copays and deductibles, not to mention limitations on what providers offer service in your insurance company’s network.
If you suffer serious injuries, you should expect:
- Emergency transport and medical care expenses. Immediately after your accident, you may need ambulance transport to an emergency room to diagnose and treat your injuries, especially in the case of severe injuries. You may need to receive substantial treatment in the emergency room, especially if you have injuries, including internal bleeding or compound fractures, that need immediate surgical attention.
- Hospitalization. If you suffer severe injuries, the hospital may want to monitor you as you begin your road to recovery. With serious injuries, hospital staff may need to regularly monitor your vital signs and your recovery. If, for example, you suffer a traumatic brain injury in your accident, your doctors may want to monitor you to make sure that you do not lose consciousness again. In severe cases, you may need surgery to relieve swelling in the brain and decrease the risk of permanent damage. You may need to remain in the hospital until you progress further through your recovery, accumulating significant medical bills for each day that you require care. Some victims, including those with spinal cord damage or amputations, may not go home immediately after release from the hospital. Instead, they may move to long-term care facilities, where they can receive ongoing care for your injuries as well as rehabilitation services. Like a hospital stay, a stay in a rehabilitation facility may cause your medical costs to increase rapidly.
- Surgeries and medical procedures. You may require surgical treatment for your injuries. Emergency surgery may occur as a result of severe car accident injuries that require immediate attention to save your life or maintain your quality of life. Some injuries, including some amputations or stump revisions, may occur days or even weeks after the accident itself. Every procedure continues to add to your medical bills—sometimes in more ways than you expect. After surgery, for example, you may receive bills from the hospital, the doctor who actually treated you, and the anesthesiologist who provided care during your surgery.
- Physical therapy. Following even comparatively minor injuries, you may need physical therapy to help you regain strength and flexibility in the affected area of the body. Victims with spinal cord damage and other injuries that restrict movement may also receive physical therapy to help maintain muscle tone throughout the body. With each physical therapy appointment, your medical costs go up. Your insurance company may also only allow for a set number of physical therapy appointments in each calendar year. If you have severe injuries, the number of appointments you need may exceed that allotted number.
- Occupational therapy. Severe injuries, including amputations, spinal cord damage, and traumatic brain injury, can leave you unable to accomplish many of the tasks that would ordinarily make up your normal day. You may, for example, need to relearn how to perform tasks with one arm following an arm amputation, or need assistance learning how to make modifications to your daily schedule or your daily activities due to traumatic brain injury. An occupational therapist can offer vital advice as you navigate those difficult situations, providing you with tips, strategies, and tricks that can help you navigate life with those injuries. Many victims need ongoing occupational therapy until they learn how to cope with the limitations associated with long-term injuries.
- Psychological therapy. Many accident victims suffer from substantial mental and emotional trauma related to the accident. You may suffer from PTSD or struggle to handle some of the changes you must make to your life, both as you recover from your injuries and as you accept the limitations that may remain even after your recovery. Many victims continue psychological therapy for years.
- Durable medical equipment. Modern technology offers many advances that make it easier for people to navigate their lives with substantial physical injuries. Unfortunately, that equipment often comes at a high cost, especially if you need to replace the equipment regularly, as in the case of prosthetic devices to replace missing limbs, or if you need high-end equipment, like a motorized wheelchair to aid in mobility after a spinal cord injury.
- Modifications to your home due to your injuries. After severe injuries, you may need to modify your home to make it possible to continue living there with the highest possible degree of independence. If you need a wheelchair to get around, for example, you may need to widen doorways, install wheelchair ramps, and modify your bathroom to improve accessibility. All of these modifications to your home can add up fast.
How to Pay Your Medical Bills After Your Car Accident
As the injured individual who receives medical services related to the car accident, you bear primary responsibility for paying all of your medical expenses. Fortunately, several options can help you receive assistance in paying those bills.
Your Personal Injury Protection Insurance
To drive legally, Florida drivers must carry personal injury protection insurance that, depending on the coverage the driver selects, will cover the first portion of medical bills and lost wages after an accident, regardless of who causes that accident. Once the driver has used that amount, he or she may file a car accident claim against the driver who caused the accident to receive further compensation for those medical expenses.
Unfortunately, after severe injuries, the victim often faces medical costs much higher than the protection offered by personal injury protection insurance. It does, however, offer immediate coverage for many of your medical expenses, regardless of who caused your accident. Contact your personal injury protection insurance provider as soon as possible after your accident to determine how much coverage you have and how to use it.
Your Medical Insurance
Medical insurance helps provide coverage for many medical expenses related to auto accidents. Medical insurance often comes with substantial deductibles and copays, but thanks to its coverage, you will face much lower personal costs related to your accident. Even if you have grounds for a car accident claim after your accident, you should use your medical insurance to help cover your medical expenses.
As soon after your accident as possible, contact your medical insurance company and let the company know about your accident. Within a few weeks, if you do not contact the insurance company, you will receive a letter or phone call asking for details about the accident. The insurance company will evaluate who caused your accident and whether the company can expect you to receive coverage for medical bills from the party that caused your accident. By providing your medical insurance company with information about the accident, you can streamline claim approval and ensure that you do not face unexpected medical bills due to claim denials.
A Car Accident Claim
The party that caused your accident bears liability for covering your medical bills. If you suffer injuries in an auto accident, contact an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible. That car accident attorney can:
Assess your claim. Often, after an accident, the insurance company that covers the liable driver will contact you with a settlement offer. This offer often appears before you have a chance to evaluate the full extent of your potential medical expenses or the accident’s impact on other areas of your life. In many cases, the insurance company may not provide an offer that comes even close to reflecting your financial needs after that accident. If you accept the offer, you will likely limit the compensation you ultimately receive for your injuries. When you consult with an attorney, however, the attorney will assess your claim and help determine how much you should seek for your injuries, which can help prevent you from accepting a lowball offer.
Determine all parties that bear liability for your accident. Florida drivers who drive for personal use only need to carry $10,000 in bodily injury protection for all parties injured in an accident. Other individuals or entities who bear liability for the accident, on the other hand, may carry additional coverage or offer more protection to drivers injured in that accident.
These additional parties may include:
- A mechanic who recently worked on the vehicle but did not fully repair the vehicle, leading to a mechanical failure that caused the accident
- The owner of the vehicle, if the driver was not the owner
- The driver’s employer, if the driver was working at the time of the accident
- The manufacturer of the vehicle or its component parts, if a mechanical failure of those parts caused the accident
After your attorney identifies all parties that contributed to your accident, he or she can put together a car accident claim against each party that contributed to your accident. You may significantly increase your compensation by filing for compensation against all entities that contributed to the accident, especially in the event of severe injuries or when multiple parties contributed to the accident. Commercial drivers, including taxi drivers, also usually carry higher coverage than drivers who only drive for personal use.
Put together a letter of protection. Sometimes, you may not have the ability to pay your medical bills immediately without destroying your personal finances, or you might not have the capacity to pay those bills at all. In these circumstances, your attorney can file a letter of protection with all your medical providers. This letter of protection establishes your intent to pay your medical bills once you have received the funds from your car accident claim. A letter of protection helps protect you from collections actions taken against you due to your inability to pay your medical bills before receiving funds from your car accident claim, and may help you continue to receive treatment for your injuries while you wait for the resolution of your car accident claim.
Communicate with the insurance company or companies, or other liable entities, on your behalf. Communicating with insurance companies can quickly turn stressful, especially if the insurance company resists paying the full cost of your injuries. An attorney can take that weight off your shoulders and handle those communications for you by handling requests for information from the insurance company, as well as taking over negotiations to ensure that you do not miss out on any potential compensation.
Help seek evidence related to your accident. Your attorney may need to prove who caused your accident, especially if multiple parties contributed to the accident.
An experienced car accident attorney will work to gather evidence concerning your auto accident, including:
- Getting statements from witnesses who saw the accident
- Consulting with an expert witness who can help establish exactly what occurred during the accident or what led to it
- Checking logbooks and data from commercial drivers
- Hunting down security footage or traffic camera footage from the accident
- Getting a mechanic’s statement regarding the vehicle
Following an auto accident, your medical bills may cause significant stress, making it difficult for you to manage your finances. Fortunately, you have options for paying for your medical bills. Contact an experienced car accident attorney as soon after your accident as possible to learn more about your legal rights and how you should handle your medical bills in the aftermath of a serious accident. Let an attorney handle the details of your car accident claim while you focus on your physical and emotional recovery.
Michael T. Gibson, P.A., Auto Justice Attorney
2420 S. Lakemont Avenue, Suite 150
Orlando, FL 32814