You’ve been in a car accident and it wasn’t your fault. You’ve incurred an ambulance bill, various bills from the emergency room for treatment, tests and x-rays and now you are undergoing physical therapy. You may even have needed surgery for your injuries. Soon the medical bills start pouring in and the dollar amounts of the bills are outrageous. The accident and the need for the medical treatment was not your fault – you didn’t ask for this – so what you do?
You feel as though the other driver’s insurance should pay for these bills but unfortunately the judicial system doesn’t work this way. Until you receive a judgment from a trial or you reach a settlement with the insurance company, nobody is required to pay your medical bills. Until one of those two things happen (trial verdict or settlement) your bills will remain unpaid. Also know that it may take a year or years for one of these two things to happen and leaving your bills unpaid until this happens could create huge problems with your credit rating.
So what are your options? First, if you have health insurance you must make sure that all your bills are submitted to your health insurance provider. This is your best option. You may get push back from your providers because they will tell you that a third party is at fault for your injuries. They may want to have the bills submitted to the other driver’s auto insurance company or your auto insurance company, but again – your very best outcome is to have the bills paid by your health insurance company.
Your health insurance provider will generally have agreed to rates with the hospital and doctors to pay them an amount which is less than the total bill. If the bill from the hospital is $1,000, your health insurance provider (Blue Cross for example) may have a contract with the hospital to pay them $600 to satisfy the bill. Out of the proceeds of your settlement or verdict at trial you will have to reimburse the health insurance provider and the Illinois Common Fund Doctrine provides that the reimbursement will be reduced by one-third of the total. Therefore, as you see under the example above, the $1,000 bill from the hospital will be repaid out of the proceeds of your settlement for $400. If you left the bill unpaid, you will most likely have to pay the full $1,000 for the bill.
Moving forward, if you do not have health insurance you have two options. One is to leave the bills unpaid and hope for a settlement or trial. The second is to find out whether your auto insurance policy or the auto insurance policy of the other driver has a medical payments provision. Generally a better than average auto policy will have $5,000 available to you to go towards the payment of your bills. Obviously this is not a significant amount of money and may only cover a fraction of your bills.
This may be a good time to remind you that you should look into purchasing a better auto insurance policy. Most people try to spend as little as possible when purchasing auto insurance only to find out the hard way that your policy doesn’t provide you with much help when you really need it. The auto insurance policy you bought with $5,000 in medical payments coverage might only cost a few dollars more per month to have $10,000 or $20,000 in medical payments coverage. The auto insurance policy you bought with $25,000 in bodily injury coverage might only cost a few dollars more per month to have $50,000 or $100,000 in bodily injury coverage. You always get what you paid for in life and make sure you spend a few dollars more so you’re not put in a really bad position should you get into a car accident.
But to refresh, pay close attention to your medical bills following your accident. Make sure you know what all your options are and that the bills are being paid. The attorneys at Stein & Shulman have spent a lifetime addressing these issues and a phone call to our office to get some advice on these issues is FREE. Call us right away at (312) 422-0509 and take advantage of some free advice from a personal injury lawyer that has experience in dealing with these issues.