If You Are In An Auto Accident That is Not Your Fault, It Should Not Cost You Anything.

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.

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10 Things To Do If You Get In An Auto Accident!

auto-accident1. Make sure you and the other driver are safe before getting out of the car. If you are in a busy intersection move out of harm’s way (if possible). Make sure you pull as far as you can to the side of the road.

2. Check for injuries. Most people don’t feel injured immediately after an auto accident because of the adrenaline rush. Be cautious. With every auto accident you are going to have an injury; the forces involved are just too great not to. If an ambulance comes, the EMT’s will check things out. They usually recommend you come with them. If you feel like you can drive home then tell them. If not, go. Better safe than sorry. It will be a pain to deal with the ambulance bill when it comes and your claim hasn’t been paid, but your health is worth the hassle

3. Exchange information. At minimum, you should get their name, telephone numbers, license plate and card numbers, and their insurance information. One of the more innovative things I would recommend besides writing down the above information is to take lots of pictures. Most cell phones these days have cameras. Take pictures of the accident but also take pictures of their driver’s license and insurance card.

4. Call the police. Do this just in case. Truth is, most of the time they just tell you to exchange information. It may not feel necessary to call but you never know. If you call and they can’t help you in time then call back later and file a police report. This will help protect you.

5. Inform your and the other driver’s insurance company. The quicker you get the ball rolling the easier it will be for you. There are two sides to an auto accident claim, the property damage and the bodily injury. The car they should fix quickly. Taking the time to see a doctor about the bodily injury before any decisions are made is important (will discuss next). If the accident was not your fault, you should still let your insurance company know. They can back you up if the other person is either under insured or just a pain to work with. You may also have Med-pay which is an extra writer that covers injuries regardless of who may be at fault.

6. See your chiropractor! Chances are you have some pain or discomfort. Even if you don’t have pain, get an exam. In every auto accident you are dealing with forces that cause tissue damage. Sometimes you don’t feel the problems until months later when weak scar tissue tears and starts the inflammation again. In addition, it is tough to argue with insurance companies unless you get checked out soon after the accident.

7. Ice. The protocol for icing should be 20 minutes maximum on the affected area. You want to feel the cold then burn then ache before it goes numb so only use a paper towel or thin t-shirt between your skin and the ice pack. NEVER USE HEAT after an auto accident. This will feel good while it is on but bring a lot more blood to the area and make the inflammation worse. Increased inflammation will slow down the healing process.

8. How should you pay for your care? This could be its own blog post but I will keep it short. If the accident was not your fault you shouldn’t have to pay anything out of pocket. I am happy to treat people on a lien until is settles. If it is your fault you either have to pay for it yourself or have Med-pay on your auto insurance policy. Besides Med-pay, if you are not at fault, retaining an attorney can save you a lot of hassle and stress and should help you get a little extra money for all the things you will have to deal with on your road to recovery.

9. Journal. The more information you have the better. Take note of your aches and pains, when you have to take pain meds, times when you get headaches, days/hours missed from work. One of the most important things you can document is what you cannot do anymore as a result of your injuries from the auto accident. Detail will help convince the insurance adjuster that your injuries are legitimate.

10. Get better. Healing takes time. It is a roller coaster ride that can be frustrating. Don’t stop treatment too early or it could come back and become chronic. Remember, a positive attitude goes a long way to healing.

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“It Was Just a Fender-Bender”

Have you ever noticed that there are really only two types of auto accidents? There is the, “My car was smashed-I am lucky to be alive-wonder if they are going to total my car-I am hurting all over,” crash. And then, there is the, “It Was Just a Fender-Bender,” accident. You may be surprised, but the Fender-Bender where you just got a little neck pain and a slight headache may actually turn out to be the much more serious accident.

Let me explain. First, the physics of a motor vehicle accident. Force= Mass x Acceleration. Simply put, how hard something hits you is a combination of how big it is times how fast it is moving. If an object is small it can still hit you with a lot of force if it is moving rapidly. The classic example of that would be a bullet. If I throw it at you it wouldn’t do too much damage but when shot with high-velocity it is deadly. Likewise, a large object doesn’t have to be moving very quickly to hit you with a lot of force.
Now, let’s talk about car design. Most automobiles made in the last 15-20 years were designed with collisions in mind. They are engineered to preserve life in a high-speed crash and to preserve damage to the vehicle in a low-speed collision. In a high-speed collision, the car will crumple like an accordion to absorb the force. In low speeds, the car is designed to withstand such force.
In any auto accident, there is a transfer of force. The stiffer the object, the less it absorbs, so it transfers to the next softest thing. The softest structure in a car is a person. So, with high impact collisions, the car will absorb most of the force but in a low impact collision, it is the person in the vehicle that will. As a result, people who are in a minor collision can actually have worse soft tissue damage than someone in a really bad accident.
If you are ever in an auto accident, even if it seems like no big deal, I would highly encourage you to get an examination. Otherwise, what can happen is that joints that don’t heal properly can, over time, become dysfunctional which will lead to poor health and pain. I see people daily with necks that have been through a whiplash injury. At the time of the accident, there wasn’t too much pain. Months to years later, much like erosion, degenerative change takes over complicating the healing tenfold.