It’s critical to protect your health and financial future after a car crash. Here are seven ways to pay for medical care after an accident, while waiting for your settlement.
Don’t let worries about medical bills stop you from getting the treatment you need after a motor vehicle accident. Protecting your health should be your top priority.
Getting all the injury compensation you deserve from the at-fault driver is equally important. Injury settlements are primarily based on the cost of your medical care, including diagnosis, treatment, medications, and rehabilitation.
Delaying or skimping on medical treatment not only harms your health, but can also sink your insurance claim.
Here we unpack seven ways to get your medical care covered while you’re waiting for the final settlement from the auto insurance company. One or more of these options should work well for you.
7 Ways to Pay for Medical Care After a Car Accident:
- PIP or MedPay Auto Policy Coverage
- Uninsured Motorist Coverage
- Private Healthcare Insurance
- Medicare or VA Coverage
- Medicaid and CHIP
- Workers’ Compensation Insurance
- Letters of Protection
1. PIP or MedPay Auto Policy Coverage
Your own auto policy will have Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage if you live in a no-fault insurance state. PIP coverage pays reasonable medical treatment costs for drivers and their passengers after a traffic accident, no matter who caused the crash. PIP also pays for replacement services that you have to hire out due to your injuries, and lost wages.
Similarly, Medical Payment Insurance (MedPay) covers injury costs for you and your passengers regardless of fault, after any motor vehicle crash. MedPay limits are typically under $10,000 and only pays for medical expenses. Some policies double the available MedPay coverage upon confirmation you were wearing a seatbelt when the accident occurred.
Insurance carriers in every state offer optional PIP or MedPay coverage.
2. Uninsured Motorist Coverage
There are approximately 32 million uninsured drivers on the road today.² That’s one out of eight drivers, despite laws in nearly every state requiring vehicle owners to carry car insurance.
Currently, 22 states require uninsured motorist coverage to be included in auto insurance policies sold in that state. When not required, policy holders can purchase optional uninsured motorist coverage.
Uninsured motorist coverage will pay for your medical care if you’re hurt in an accident with an at-fault driver who doesn’t have insurance, or in a hit-and-run.
Contact your insurance company to file a first-party personal injury claim.
3. Private Healthcare Insurance
The healthcare insurance plan provided by your employer or through the Healthcare Marketplace is an easy and reliable way to get the medical care you need after an auto accident. Any co-pays or deductibles will have to be paid out of pocket, to be recovered later when you settle your claim.
You’ll need complete medical bills to submit with your personal injury insurance claim. You are entitled to seek compensation for the full value of your medical care, not just the amount you pay out-of-pocket or the discounted payment made by your healthcare insurance.
Don’t be surprised to hear from your health insurance company after your claims have been processed. Health insurance companies aggressively follow up on claims that might be someone else’s liability.
Health insurers won’t come after a car accident victim directly. However, they can and will look to be reimbursed out of your settlement with the at-fault driver’s insurer. That’s why it’s important to claim the full value of all your medical care as part of your total compensation.
4. Medicare or VA Coverage
Medicare, divided into parts A and B, is availed to American adults who are 65 or older who paid into the system over the years. Part A covers hospital stays, surgery, lab work, and more. Part B covers doctor visits, physical therapy, medical equipment, X-rays, and other types of outpatient services.
Medicare covers 80 percent of qualified medical expenses. An optional Medigap policy will cover the remaining 20 percent, while a Medicare Part D plan pays for approved medications.
VA health care benefits generally cover anyone who actively served in the U.S. military, naval, or air service and didn’t receive a dishonorable discharge. See the Veteran Affairs’ website for specific eligibility requirements. The service member’s spouse and dependent children may also be covered.
5. Medicaid and CHIP
Medicaid is a federal program administered by states to provide health care coverage for low-income people, persons with disabilities, pregnant women, and more.
The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is a jointly run federal and state program offering medical care coverage to children.
If you are uninsured and land in the hospital after a bad car accident, you will likely be helped by a hospital social worker or financial services coordinator. They will assist you in applying for Medicaid services, and can tell you about any other financial assistance for medical care that may be available in your location.
Severe or complicated car accident claims, and injury claims involving children, are best handled by experienced personal injury attorneys.
6. Workers’ Compensation Insurance
Employees who are injured in a motor vehicle accident while in the course of their duties can apply for workers’ compensation benefits.
Eligible workers are entitled to benefits, including medical care coverage, even if the worker was at fault for the accident, so long as the worker wasn’t intentionally doing something illegal, like drunk driving.
You can be eligible for workers’ comp if you were a passenger or driving a company vehicle while on the job, or running work errands using your own car.
When the other driver caused the crash, you can still let workers’ comp pay for your medical care and wage benefits. Once your injury claim is settled with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, workers’ comp will seek subrogation (meaning reimbursement) of the funds they spent on your behalf.
7. Letters of Protection
Even when the at-fault driver’s insurance company has accepted liability for their insured, they won’t pay your medical bills right away. It can take anywhere from a few months to a year or more to settle your bodily injury claim. In the meantime, bills are piling up and you may be worried about going into collections.
When you can’t otherwise afford to get all the medical care necessary to treat your car accident injuries, a letter of protection can help.
A Letter of Protection (LOP) is a promise made by the attorney to protect the medical provider’s interest by paying their bills out of your settlement funds in exchange for holding your account from collections until your claim is resolved.
When you’re represented by a personal injury lawyer after a car accident, your lawyer can help keep your medical accounts from going into collections by sending each medical provider an LOP. Doctors and hospitals won’t accept an LOP directly from the accident victim.
Each LOP is a legally binding agreement between you, your attorney, and the medical care provider. It gives you time to settle your claim without being hounded by creditors. If for some reason your claim does not settle or you lose your personal injury case at trial, you are still personally responsible for the outstanding medical bills.
Bonus: You Can’t Afford to Skimp on Medical Care
If you aren’t treated at the scene of the accident, seek immediate medical attention from your primary care physician, an urgent care center, or the hospital emergency department. Then, follow through with any tests or treatments ordered by your medical provider.
Never refuse or delay medical attention after a motor vehicle accident. The insurance company will jump at the chance to argue that your injuries weren’t that bad, or that your injuries weren’t even related to the accident.
Tell every medical provider who treats you exactly when and how you were injured. Don’t assume it’s already in your records. It helps your claim if every medical test and treatment note links your injuries to a car accident that occurred on a specific date.
Adjusters will always scrutinize your medical bills to ensure:
- The injury is connected to the car accident
- The tests and treatment are reasonable for the injury
- Missed work time is reasonable for the injury
Insurance companies are obligated to pay reasonable medical costs for injuries caused by their insured. Put another way, the insurance company only has to pay reasonable medical costs for treatment of your injuries.
Adjusters are always skeptical of claims for whiplash and other soft-tissue injuries with higher-than-average bills.
Bills from a respected medical doctor who ordered one or two imaging studies followed by conservative treatment for your sprains and strains will likely get paid without question. On the other hand, you’ll almost certainly have to fight to get months of chiropractic treatments approved for the same type of muscle strains.
Avoid “accident doctors” who artificially inflate your overall medical bills with unnecessary therapies and repeated medical tests. You may be on the hook for tests and treatments that are outside regular standards of medical care.
Prior Injuries or Conditions
Your injury claim negotiations can get complicated if the adjuster believes your medical problems are from an old injury or underlying medical condition, rather than the car accident with their insured.
You shouldn’t hide or lie about a prior injury, but you can help your accident claim by making sure your medical records clearly separate your current injuries from any pre-existing conditions.
For example, you’d tell your doctor you haven’t had any pain or stiffness from your prior shoulder injury for a few years, until the at-fault driver T-boned you. After the impact, you were in so much pain you couldn’t even open the car door and haven‘t been able to use that arm since the crash.
Contact a car accident lawyer for a free consultation if the insurance adjuster won’t accept your medical costs because of a pre-existing condition.
Justify Time Off Work
You’re entitled to compensation for lost wages, including sick time or personal leave you had to burn because of your car accident injuries.
Even if your employer doesn’t require a doctor’s note for your time off, you need one to justify your wage claim to the insurance company.
The insurance adjuster will take a hard look at your claim for lost wages and won’t hesitate to deny all or part of your wages claim when it seems out of proportion to the extent of your injuries.
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