Issues discussed are medical expenses for your injuries, how they get paid, who pays them, why it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
The number one thing to do if you suffer an injury following a motor vehicle accident is to seek medical treatment. This might seem like common sense advice, but many of my clients wait to seek medical attention for days or weeks because of many, many reasons. Some accidents require ambulance transport to a hospital, but frequently accident victims are able to drive home from the accident scene and develop symptoms hours after the accident.
The number one reason I hear for not seeking immediate medical attention is that clients fear how much the medical treatment will cost them or they get bad information from a medical provider, insurance adjuster, friend or family member about who will or will not pay for the medical bills. With that said, let me address that issue briefly:
Who pays for the medical treatment?
If you have PIP coverage under your own auto policy or if you were a passenger/bicyclist/pedestrian you might have PIP coverage under an auto policy that will pay your bills. I discuss PIP benefits in greater detail in another blog. However, if you do not have PIP coverage, but have health insurance your health insurance becomes primary for paying medical bills. If it is a situation where you have no medical insurance whatsoever it might be necessary to find a doctor or treatment provider who will wait until the auto accident case resolves (settles) to be paid. Make sure you discuss this issue with your treatment provider and if you are in this situation it is highly recommended that you have an attorney who can help facilitate this process.
One thing that most people don’t understand is that insurance companies assume you’re lying about your injuries. If you don’t seek medical treatment for your injuries within a day or two of the accident, then this only makes the insurance adjuster even more convinced that you are lying about your injuries. I’ll give you one example:
Johnny Shipyard is involved in a car accident and almost immediately after the accident, Johnny’s shoulder hurts. However, Johnny considers himself a “tough guy” and just got a job working as a welder. Out of economic necessity, he cannot miss work so he continues to work for four weeks and fights through the pain. Johnny never goes to the emergency room or sees a doctor-he takes ibuprofen to help with the pain and is able to go to work, but his shoulder gets progressively worse. The day AFTER the accident Johnny also told the at-fault party’s insurance company that he was “okay.”
After four weeks his shoulder aches daily and he can hardly raise his arm. Finally, he goes to the emergency room where he is seen by an orthopedic surgeon who tells him he needs an MRI of his shoulder. The MRI reveals a torn rotator cuff and the orthopedic surgeon tells him it is most likely from the car accident. When Johnny calls the auto insurance company and tells them he has a torn rotator cuff from the car accident the insurance company tells him they won’t pay for anything because he already told them he was “okay” AND surely something else must have caused this injury because it has been more than 4 weeks since the accident. The insurance company also tells Johnny he probably hurt his shoulder at work welding and not in the car accident. To convince them otherwise they ask Johnny to sign a medical authorization to obtain 10 years of prior medical records. Becoming more and more skeptical, Johnny finally calls an attorney.
Ultimately, Johnny’s case may be salvaged with months, if not years, of litigation, but this situation could have been avoided if he sought medical treatment earlier or even sought some simple legal advice early after the auto accident.
The above example and discussion is important because not every injury suffered in an auto accident is apparent immediately. While some tragic accidents include death or severely broken bones that are identifiable at the scene of the accident, many injuries are internal injuries involving brain injuries, bulging discs, torn tendons/muscles, or purely soft tissue strains and sprains that develop more slowly over time. These injuries, while not visible at the scene of an accident, can ultimately be serious injuries requiring immediate medical treatment.
At Altman Law Offices we offer free consultations and encourage all accident victims to call us for a free consultation so we can answer all of your questions.