Do You Have to Pay Medical Bills While Waiting for an Insurance Settlement?

Do You Have to Pay Medical Bills While Waiting for an Insurance Settlement?

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When someone is involved in a car accident in Iowa, pain and suffering from injuries are inevitably in their rearview. Will they at least receive compensation from the at-fault driver to cover their costly medical bills?

Unfortunately, the payment and insurance claim process could take months, even years, which leaves victims of car accidents at a loss – especially if they cannot work. 

According to the Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT), 2.35 million people in the United States are injured or disabled each year because of car accidents. 

Here are some options to consider that could help alleviate this problem while drivers wait for their insurance settlement.

Using Health Insurance to Pay for Medical Bills

Drivers involved in a car accident should be able to first turn to their own health insurance for immediate payment of their medical expenses. Insurance information or an insurance card just needs to be provided immediately to the hospital, emergency room, or doctor’s office treating the driver. Medical bills should be covered by health insurance, unless another insurance is the primary insurer, like workers’ compensation or the other driver’s insurance company.

Advantages to using personal health insurance include:

  • Proper medical treatment can actually be given after being injured by a negligent driver.
  • Payments are made, which ensures that unpaid medical costs are covered during the lengthy settlement process that can take months or years. 
  • Payments are made if medical bills exceed the car insurance limits to avoid paying them out of pocket.

If the injured driver’s claim is resolved in his or her favor, the car insurance involved may be required to pay the health insurance back, which is part of the subrogation process. Another possible scenario is that the medical provider may place a lien on the claim to ensure that it is paid before the remaining settlement funds are received. 

For injured drivers with Medicare or Medicaid as their primary health insurance, they may also be able to use this form of insurance to receive the necessary medical treatment after their accident. 

Using Med Pay or PIP Coverage to Pay for Medical Bills

Medical Payment Coverage (Med-Pay) or Personal Injury Protection (PIP) under an auto insurance policy provides payment for medical expenses after a car accident in Iowa, regardless of who was at fault. These optional plans can be added to an existing auto policy; sometimes, there are minimum purchase requirements per person to cover medical expenses. 

Med-Pay coverage is not required in Iowa; it is optional for drivers in the state. More key things to know about Med-Pay in Iowa are:

  • It covers medical expenses for the policyholder, named drivers, and their passengers.
  • It averages $10 per month.

Drivers can file a claim through either Med-Pay or PIP under the original auto insurance policy for coverage up to the policy limits. 

Negotiating a Payment Plan for Medical Bills

After car accident victims have exhausted all of their resources to pay for their heaping medical bills, most hospitals are willing to negotiate a monthly payment plan. 

In some circumstances, hospitals may even negotiate a reduced rate for services while a car accident victim waits for his or her case to settle. 

Just keep these payment plan reminders in mind:

  • The small, monthly payments need to be affordable and within budget to be made on time.
  • If a payment is missed, the hospital could request the full amount of the bill to be paid immediately.
  • If a payment is missed and cannot be paid out of pocket, the hospital may send the bill to a debt collector, which is a hit to a credit score. 

And, in some cases, a personal injury attorney may be able to send the hospital a letter requesting to put the bill on hold until the insurance settlement is received. This is an authorization and assignment contract between the medical provider, the patient, and the attorney that says all agree to pay for the medical expenses out of the personal injury settlement. The contract will require some sort of payment before the settlement funds are received. 

What are the Most Common Injuries from Car Accidents?

More than 3 million Americans are injured in car accidents each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and sustain these five most common injuries (either impact or penetrating), which will require medical treatment:

  • Soft tissue injuries, or connective tissue damage to the muscles, ligaments, or tendons. Examples include whiplash, low- and mid-back injuries or sprains, and damages to the spine.
  • Scrapes and cuts caused by loose objects from inside the car (cell phones, coffee mugs), broken glass, car parts, and airbags can cause lacerations that require stitches. 
  • Head injuries can range from minor to serious, which is a result of driver impact to the side window or steering wheel. Results can vary from a concussion to more serious closed head injuries. The tricky part for medical staff is that, often, head injuries do not show bruises or symptoms initially, making them the “silent” injuries. 
  • Chest injuries, ranging from contusions and bruises to broken ribs and injuries to internal organs. 
  • Arm and leg injuries are caused by sudden, unnatural direction changes or stops by the vehicle that result in the involuntary motion of arms and legs. In the front seat, this normally means a collision between the knees and the bottom of the dashboard. 

Filing a Lawsuit to Pay for Medical Bills

Another option for drivers who are not at fault to help pay for medical bills is to file a lawsuit against the other driver. Once that lawsuit is filed, the at-fault driver will need to defend the case and will be responsible for any payment recovery made at trial or through a settlement.

This lawsuit process should be made through an experienced car accident attorney in Des Moines, not directly through the auto insurance company alone. Making sure medical expenses get paid can be extremely confusing, especially when the insurance company will probably claim a portion of the settlement.