Car accidents can leave motorists with a serious injury. Unsurprisingly, many of our clients incur massive medical bills to treat fractures, concussions, back injuries, and spinal cord injuries. Their surgeries, rehab, and prescription drugs total tens of thousands of dollars—and, in many cases, much more.
If you were involved in an accident, you probably are wondering how your medical bills get paid. There is no single process everyone follows. However, our Las Vegas car accident lawyer examines all options in detail below.
This is the good news. If another motorist was to blame for the wreck, you can seek compensation from that driver’s insurance policy to pay for medical care. If they were 100% responsible for the accident, you should qualify for compensation to cover 100% of your medical bills. By contrast, if you were partially at fault, your damages get reduced by your portion of liability.
Although obtaining a settlement is a relief, accident victims face a common problem—they need immediate medical care, but their case won’t settle for months. So how do they go about paying their medical bills in the interim? In most cases, you will be waiting at least six months before you see any money for a settlement, but you have a legal obligation to begin mitigating your damages.
Let’s look at the primary options an accident victim has for paying for immediate care.
If you have medical payments coverage, called MedPay, you can immediately tap those benefits to pay for care to treat your car accident injuries. This is excellent coverage because it is no fault—essentially, you can be to blame for the wreck and still use the benefits to begin covering your care.
Unfortunately, MedPay is not required in Nevada—but insurers must offer it, with coverage beginning at $1,000. Check your policy. If you drove to Vegas in your own car, you might have MedPay coverage because your state requires it.
If you have health insurance through an employer, or if you bought your own policy on the market, you can use this insurance to pay for medical care. Of course, you will be responsible out-of-pocket for any copays and deductibles. Depending on your insurance, these could represent a substantial amount of money. Some high-deductible plans do not kick in until you consume $6,000 in care, at which point the insurer might pay a portion.
Still, using your health insurance gets you access to immediate medical care. When seeking medical treatment, you will probably find that most providers are interested in finding out if you have the means to pay. If you have insurance, they should provide treatment and bill your insurance company.
Of course, if you get a settlement down the road—say, six months from the date of the accident—your health insurer retains a “right of subrogation.” This is a legal term meaning they have a right to get reimbursed out of your accident settlement for money they paid to treat any injuries sustained in the wreck.
For example, imagine you go to the hospital and receive $40,000 in treatment for a fracture suffered in a car wreck. Your insurance picks up the tab. When you negotiate a settlement, your health insurer has a right to take $40,000 from your settlement with the other driver.
Interestingly, MedPay does not have a right of subrogation. Instead, you get to use those benefits free and clear. So if you used medical payments benefits, you will not have any money taken from your insurance settlement.
If you were driving for your job, you might qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. The state’s workers’ compensation system covers medical bills when workers are injured on the job, regardless of fault. You should not have to pay anything—your employer’s insurer will cover the cost of all treatment.
Whether you were “on the job” is a fact-based question. Typically, driving to or from work does not qualify, since we all travel to get to work or to go home at night. However, you might have been hurt while running an errand for your boss, or you might have been traveling to visit clients or attend a conference for work. In these situations, you are traveling as part of your job, and your accident is probably covered by the workers’ compensation system.
What happens if you don’t have any insurance but obviously need medical care? In this unfortunate example, you will probably have to pay out of pocket. Maybe you can pay using a credit card and, when you get a settlement, pay off the balance on the card.
We realize this isn’t ideal. But the reality of car accident law is that a motorist is not responsible for your injuries unless they are at fault for the wreck. And fault can take some time to establish.
Some medical providers will provide care if they know you were injured in a car accident because they know you might receive a settlement in the future. That means they can get paid, but they need to wait a little bit for your case to reach a conclusion.
To guarantee their right to payment, a doctor might request a “medical lien.” This is a legal right to payment from your settlement for the medical services they provided. Not all doctors are willing to work on a lien basis, because there is always the possibility you will not receive a settlement, or your settlement will be low and they won’t be fully reimbursed.
Work with your Las Vegas car accident attorney to find a doctor who is willing to provide care in exchange for a medical lien. An attorney also has the added benefit of drafting or reviewing a lien to protect your rights. Liens are created by contract, and you want to fully understand what you will be responsible for if you do not obtain any settlement.
At Ladah Law Firm, we work with many doctors who are willing to provide care on a lien basis. We can also negotiate a reduction in the bill if your settlement is not as large as hoped.
Some people assume that they should automatically use their health insurance to pay for coverage. However, we recommend discussing your case with an attorney. Because MedPay has no right of subrogation, it is to your advantage to use these benefits first, if they are available. Maybe a relative you live with has a MedPay policy which covers you, so pursue this avenue before whipping out your health insurance card at the doctor’s office.
Other victims will need to decide between putting medical expenses on a credit card or finding a doctor to work on a lien basis. There are important considerations here, as well, including what will happen if you do not receive a settlement or are partially at fault for the wreck.
Accidents cause serious pain and inconvenience to our clients. We are here for you. If you need medical care, or if you would like to discuss the merits of your case, give Ladah Law Firm a call at (702) 252-0055. We can meet for a free consultation in a confidential setting.