Car accidents are stressful, especially if you’ve suffered physical injuries. Not only do you have to worry about car repairs or replacement, but you must also recover undergo treatment for your injuries.
The worst facet of an accident can be the financial concerns. Medical expenses may weigh heavily on you years after the accident. According to National Bankruptcy Forum, one in five working Americans struggle to pay off their medical bills and 60 percent who have insurance will use all their savings to try to pay their bills.
And even so, 60 percent of the people who struggle to pay their bills will be contacted by a collections agency. So if you’re struggling to pay your medical bills, you’re not alone.
“The families get to the point where it’s, ‘What do I do? Do I pay the doctor bill because I’m getting collection notices? But I gotta pay my mortgage, I gotta pay my electric bill, I’ve gotta pay the rent,’ ” Tom Pendergast of the Heather Pendergast Fund shared with the Atlantic.
If this sounds like your situation, you can take certain steps to cover the medical expenses from your accident.
Billing Your Insurance
The process of billing your insurance after a car crash depends on several factors. If you were primarily at fault for the incident, your insurer could be billed for the other driver’s injuries and damages as well as for your own.
However, the amount the parties are responsible for as far as medical expenses can vary, depending on whether you live in a no-fault or at-fault state.
No-Fault States: Here, the auto insurance provider is responsible for part or all of your medical bills after an accident, even if it wasn’t your fault. The insurer will usually reimburse up to $10,000 worth of expenses. After the no-fault limit has been met, you’re responsible for the remaining bills.
Fault States: In states without no-fault insurance, companies will not pay your medical bills unless you’ve signed up for a “med pay” plan. “Med pay” plans will generally insure drivers up to $10,000 on medical coverage.
If you do not have proper coverage, your insurance fails to pay your bills based on a technicality, or you have a hefty copayment, you might struggle to keep up. In addition, it can take time for the payout to arrive, while your medical bills become past due.
If this happens, it’s best to contact an attorney to discuss your options. Often, an attorney can persuade your insurance company to speed up the claims process. Your legal representative might also convince your creditors to stay payment until your insurance payout arrives.
Make a Personal Injury Claim
If your insurance company refuses to pay your bills, or you’re struggling to cover the remaining amount, you may be eligible for a personal injury suit. With the help of a qualified attorney in your state, you can seek the necessary compensation from the person who caused the accident.
The money you receive can be used to cover medical bills, damage to your vehicle, lost wages, and compensation for your altered way of life due to the injury. You won’t have to pay anything to your attorney until you win.
It’s crucial to note that, while this compensation is available to those who win a personal injury suit, the payments do not go on forever. “Even if the person who injured you is clearly at fault, the law does not require him or her to pay your medical bills on an ongoing basis,” says David Goguen, J.D. of AllLaw.
“The only thing the law requires is that, if the other person is at fault, he or she must pay you damages to resolve your lawsuit — and in many cases, your medical bills are a part of those damages. But the defendant does not have to pay your medical bills as they come in.”
That’s why it’s vital to line up an attorney who will fight for adequate compensation of your medical bills, vehicle damage, and altered way of life. When you receive your settlement, use the money wisely so you don’t run out.
If insurance payouts aren’t an option, and you don’t win a personal injury case, the alternatives are limited. Here are some other things you can do to try to make ends meet during this time.
Pick Up Side Income: If your injury does not prevent you from working, you could pick up a few extra hours at work or get a side job. If your injury does limit your ability to work, think about looking for a job you can do from home, such as freelance blogging, teaching English to children in other countries, or customer service.
Work with Medical Creditors: It’s also a smart move to talk with your creditors about payment options. Usually, they’ll work with you, even if it means reducing your monthly payment so you can get by. You can also seek the assistance of your attorney in this matter.
Ask Family and Friends for Help: If friends and family are in a position to help, now is the time to ask. It’s much easier to pay friends and family back than to pay your creditors.
Consider Filing Bankruptcy: In some cases, nothing can be done to pay your bills. If you’re unable to win your personal injury case, insurance coverage is unavailable, and you have no one to help, bankruptcy may be the only way to get your debts discharged and allow you to make a fresh financial start.
Dealing with medical expenses is difficult, but never forget that you have options. Discuss the matter with your attorney and work toward a better financial future in spite this difficult situation.