When you’re injured in a car crash, medical treatment can be expensive. One of the leading causes of bankruptcy in the United States is medical debt. You shouldn’t have to worry about struggling to afford the treatment you need. The problem is that between an ambulance, emergency room and other treatment following a crash, your bills can be in the thousands, or tens of thousands, of dollars.
Before we talk about who will pay your bills, however, it’s important to talk about who is not going to pay your bills. Most people assume that the driver who caused the crash is going to pay for their medical bills. They talk with the at-fault driver’s insurance and that insurance company tells them that they will cover the bills, but at the end of the day, this could not be further from the truth. Even if the other driver is clearly at fault, the law does not require him or her to pay your medical bills as they come in. When you win your personal injury case, the other driver will have to pay your damages, including your medical bills, but in the meantime, you need to pay the bills yourself.
There are several ways to make sure that your bills are paid and you are protected when you’re in a car crash. A lawyer can guide you through this process and make sure that you are protected. The three primary ways your medical bills can be paid are through private health insurance, medical payments insurance (also called “MedPay”), or through health care provider liens. Each of these types of payments has advantages or drawbacks.
Private Health Insurance
If you have private health insurance, either that you have purchased or that is provided by your employer, this is usually the best way to get your medical bills paid. If you are able to use your health insurance this will ensure that all your bills are covered. You may need to pay co-pays or a deductible along the way, but in the long-run using your private health insurance will make sure that your bills do not get sent to collections and that they are covered.
Many Illinois insurance policies have built-in medical payment money available to you. Called MedPay, this insurance pays for medical expenses associated with an auto accident. It is part of your car insurance and you can use it by calling your insurance agent after your injury and asking them to either send you the medical payments portion of your bills or to pay your bills directly. The amount of the available medical payments coverage varies from policy to policy, but it is typically between $5,000-$10,000. This coverage, however, is not mandatory in Illinois, so you may not have it.
Be wary of MedPay insurance, however. In general, MedPay does not negotiate lower payments for your medical bills like your health insurance company does. Why is this important? Because you will typically have to pay back the insurance companies for medical payments if you have a successful injury case and achieve a settlement or verdict. If your health insurance company has negotiated lower medical bills for you, you will owe them less money than you would typically owe to MedPay for the same medical care. And since this reimbursement comes out of the money you recover, you want this amount to be as small as possible. It may be helpful to use your MedPay to cover your deductible and co-pays, especially if you are cash strapped or don’t have great medical insurance.
A lien is a medical provider’s demand that they be paid out of the settlement or verdict in your personal injury case. Medical providers will notify your attorney that they have a lien. In Illinois, liens are controlled by the Health Care Services Lien Act, which limits the amount that health care providers can recover to “40% of the total recovery.” Additionally, with liens, your attorney can negotiate with the health care providers when the case settles in order to reduce your bills and maximize your recovery.
In an auto accident, figuring out who should pay your medical bills can be complicated. The best solution is to work with an experienced auto accident attorney who can guide you through this process. The personal injury attorneys at the Collins Law Firm can help you make good decisions, deal with the insurance companies, and get you the best possible settlement or verdict. Call us today at 630-527-1595 for a FREE EVALUATION of your car accident case.