After you’ve been hurt in a car accident, you’ll have to negotiate with the insurance company for how much they may owe you for your damages. And you’ll need a lot more than just your words.
The only way to prove the extent of your injuries is to get medical treatment. This treatment becomes evidence to show why you should be compensated. You have to show what it took to resolve your injury-this becomes the story of why the insurance company should compensate you.
When does the insurance company actually pay you?
This “story” for trying to prove your case begins at the time of your injury and ends at the last date of your medical treatment. This is why you often have to wait until “maximum medical improvement” (or “MMI”) before the insurance company will talk about settling and paying your claim. So they are really just reimbursing you for all of the bills you’ve already had to pay. Note: if the insurance company attempts to settle your injury claim before you are done treating, you are at risk and should contact an attorney right away.
You may also have a right to compensation for other, non-medical things, like how your injuries affect your daily life, time off of work, physical damages (such as scars or disabilities), emotional damages and expenses associated with your medical care.
How can you pay for medical care if you don’t have health insurance?
It’s worth saying again: treatment is imperative. Without medical treatment to document your injuries, there is no springboard to try to get a settlement. But since most doctors and other medical providers require payment at the time of service, if you don’t have health insurance, it may seem impossible to get medical treatment.
Emergency Room Visits
After a car accident, most people go to the emergency room (ER) for initial treatment. The ER visit needs to happen early in your treatment, preferably the day of the accident. Remember: you are protecting the connection between your accident and your injuries. You need to go to the doctor as soon as there is an issue from the accident. However, you should not go to the ER repeatedly because an ER is set up for emergency visits only, not for ongoing care. Multiple treatments at the ER risk the insurance company refusing to pay for the multiple ER bills.
Some ERs will attach a “lien” to your bill. A lien means the provider will give you treatment without immediate payment, and instead collect the payment later, out of the final settlement. The lien gives them a legal right to be paid directly out of the settlement.
Other ERs do not automatically attach a lien and instead try to collect payment at the normally-scheduled interval. If the ER tries to collect payment immediately, then you should let them know your treatment was the result of a collision and the status of your case. Ask the ER to give you the option to pay the bill when the case is settled. If this is not an option, offer to pay very small amounts to keep the bill out of collections, and then pay the balance once the case is settled. Bottom line: it is important to stay in touch with the medical provider so they do not just send the bill to collections.
Follow-up Care for Muscle Strains/Sprains
After the initial ER care, if you have general muscle strains and sprains, chiropractic treatment is normally a good option, and chiropractors often treat on a lien.
The reason chiropractors are helpful is because they do a good job with soft tissue injuries, which are common after car accidents. Also, chiropractors are highly accessible: you can normally schedule an appointment within a day, which means you are protecting the connection between your accident and your treatment for the accident. Plus, they often will not require immediate payment.
It is important to not miss appointments – the insurance company may take that as a sign that the appointment wasn’t necessary. In general, you should follow the chiropractor’s plan, but constantly communicate with the chiropractor about what is working, and what is not working.
Follow-up Care for More Serious Injuries
If you suffered more serious injuries, or you don’t feel better after several weeks of consistent chiropractic care, you may need to seek medical attention from a family care doctor or a specialist. You may have to find a clinic or family care doctor who will treat you on a lien, and ask them for a referral to a specialist who can treat you on a lien. These providers can be difficult to find, but if they are available, they can be invaluable to your case.
There are some urgent care facilities that will treat on a lien. You can also investigate free clinics and free medical providers in your area. There are usually links to these services through your local health department. Large providers in our area, like Duke University Health Systems and UNC Health Systems, often provide charitable care services for uninsured individuals.
Finding an Attorney
In many cases, it is important to have well-informed representation that can help direct your case with your best interests at heart. Without an attorney, you risk making a mistake that could cost you. With our team of over 30 attorneys, we have extensive knowledge to assist our clients who are uninsured to get the treatment they need. This is important because settlement is completely related to your treatment.
Negotiating a Lien
If you get treatment on a lien, the extent to which a provider is paid is based on the final settlement. If the provider is not paid in full then you are responsible for the rest. There are some times that the attorney can negotiate with the lien holder to try to reduce the out of pocket expense to the client. For example, once the case settles if the medial provider is only scheduled to be reimbursed 70% of their bill, then the medical provider may agree to not charge the client for the remaining 30%.
If you’ve been injured, time is not on your side. Contact us online for a free case evaluation or call us at 1-866-900-7078. Remember, there’s no attorney’s fee unless we recover compensation for your claim.2