Today I wanted to write a blog entry about medical bills that you might incur during your personal injury case. If you incurred medical bills from the hospital, an emergency room, urgent care, or other facility, you are responsible for those bills. Don't ignore them.
Yes, theoretically, the responsible party should be paying for those bills. However, what you need to understand is that the responsible party is NOT going to pay for these bills as they are incurred. You can't just mail them to the responsible party and expect them to pay. For example, if you go to the hospital, you will get a bill from the hospital. They don't provide free medical care. They don't care that somebody else is responsible or if you were in the hospital because of someone else's negligence. All they want to do is get paid.
The same goes for the emergency room, the ER physicians, the ambulance, and anybody else who assisted you with your injuries. They just want to get paid. Therefore, you need to find a way to pay them.
First, you can pay out of your own pocket. Second, you can submit your bills to your health insurance company or have the healthcare providers bill your health insurance directly. In many cases, you may also be able to get your bills paid by your automobile insurance if you have medical payments coverage on your policy. You will also probably owe a balance even after those resources have been used. That balance is your responsibility, and you must pay it. If you can't pay the entire amount, try to arrange for a payment plan. Just call the provider and work something out or they might send you to collections.
Remember, even though the other party is indeed legally "responsible" for those bills, you need to pay them to keep yourself out of collections and to make sure you don't get into any financial trouble. Ultimately, your attorney will present all of those bills as part of your settlement demand. Also, just because you incur bills doesn't mean the responsible party is going to agree to all of them.
One of the biggest mistakes I see is when clients get accident-related health care bills in the mail and simply ignore them. Sometimes they don't even open the envelope. They mistakenly assume they are not responsible for those bills and simply send them to my office or ignore them altogether. If you get bills or collections notices in the mail, you need to forward those to your attorney. Your attorney is not automatically getting copies of the collection notices or any of your bills for that matter. That being said, giving your bills or collection notices to your lawyer doesn't mean you don't have to pay them. Your lawyer needs to be aware of your bills, but that won't absolve you from responsibility. Remember, the health care providers don't care who was responsible. They provided a service, and they want to be compensated.
Is it fair? Is this how things should work? Probably not. However it is the way the personal injury world works, and we have to work within those realities. So here is the lesson: Make sure your bills get paid and are not ignored. Find resources to pay them whenever possible. You lawyer can help you figure this out. Ultimately, the lawyer will include all of those bills as part of your settlement demand of the defendant.
If you need help with your personal injury case or have any questions, please feel free to contact our office at (661) 414-7100.