Statistically speaking, you will probably be in an auto accident at some point in your life. I believe that injuries happen in most accidents, even the small ones and that you are doing yourself a disservice by not healing correctly after. One of the barriers that keep people from getting the care they need is the potential cost. Let me be very clear, if you are in an auto accident and it is not your fault, your care should be covered 100% either by the responsible person’s insurance company, through your insurance company, or by the responsible person. This article explores the most common ways to have healthcare bills paid.
The simplest way to make sure your bills are covered is to hire an experienced personal injury attorney. I understand that there is a stigma with hiring a personal injury attorney and there are definitely some shady characters out there. However, there are some good guys, too, and they can make life so much easier. A good attorney will make it so you do not have to talk to the insurance company again which means no more harassing phone calls or bullying you into believing you are not really hurt or that you are milking the system. Personal Injury attorneys work on a contingency so they get a percentage of the settlement they get for you. Usually, that is 33%. A good attorney, provided it is a decent case, will usually get a larger settlement which means more money for you in the form of pain and suffering. It can take a while for everyone to get paid using this method but most doctors will treat you on a lien backed by the attorney because they know the attorney will pay them when the case settles. I highly recommend this option for most of my patients.
The next easiest, and frankly the one chiropractors like the best, is to bill your insurance company through med-pay. Med-pay is an extra on your policy and not everyone has it. It usually costs an extra few bucks per month and covers up to around $5,000 in healthcare if you are in an accident regardless if it is your fault or not. Chiropractors like it because they pay as you go so they do not have to wait for a lump sum payment. You can still get an attorney if you have med pay if you would like a settlement for yourself. You can also negotiate a settlement for yourself but you need to be careful that the other insurance company knows that the total settlement includes what your insurance company already paid in med-pay. Your insurance company can go after the other insurance company for what they paid in med-pay and if you close the case with the other insurance company by taking a settlement, your insurance company might come after you for compensation.
You can negotiate a settlement yourself with the other person’s insurance company. This is the riskiest thing to do, especially for the doctor. In this situation, after all the treatment is done, you take all of your bills and any other expenses and submit it to the claims adjuster. You can also ask for more money for pain and suffering. It has been my experience that this is not as easy as it should be. Claims adjusters will often deny a legitimate claim hoping you do not want to spend your time and energy to fight with them. They can bully you into believing that what you are asking for it too much and way above what is normal and try and pit you against your doctors. They can even take the attitude of “what are you going to do about it?” At this point, it is usually too late to get an attorney which means you are left to figure out a way to file a complaint or sue in small claims court. Both are a pain and may cost you. Most chiropractors will not treat you unless you pay upfront which can get expensive. I will treat in this situation on a lien in hopes that the insurance company will play nice and trusting the patient to pay me when it all settles.
Finally, you can take the insurance company or the other driver to small claims court. The limit of small claims court is around $7,500 in most counties depending on the nature of the claim. It will cost you a filing fee, usually around $75 and you will also have to pay someone to serve the defendant which can be expensive. These cases are simple to win but with all of the upfront expenses, the low reward, and the time you will spend, it is by far the least attractive option. Plus, actually getting money from the person you are suing can be very difficult, at least in California.
I am not a lawyer and I am not giving legal advice. If you are in an accident that is not your fault, please do yourself a favor and educate yourself on how the process works. Doing so will allow you to get the care you need which is the most important thing.