Should I Go to the Hospital After a Car Accident?
Sometimes, right after an accident, people will call and ask me, “What should I do? Should I go to the hospital?”I always advise, irrespective of who is at fault, if you feel any type of injury you should go to the hospital emergency room to get checked out. Even if you do not feel a significant injury, it’s always better to get checked out by a medical professional.
Medical professionals in the emergency room at the hospital usually have experience treating people that have been injured in a car accident. Even if they are not able to provide significant treatment right away, the medical providers will usually make recommendations for follow-up care.
You may be apprehensive about going to the hospital because you are concerned about incurring medical bills.
I tell folks that, generally, if the accident wasn’t your fault, then the other driver’s insurance is ultimately going to be responsible for your medical bills. So, if you go to the hospital right after an accident to get checked out, the at-fault driver’s insurance is going to be obligated to pay your hospital bill. However, be sure to consult with an experienced injury attorney about how to make the claim for the reimbursement of your medical expenses.
Should I Use My Health Insurance to Pay My Hospital Bill?
Yes, in most situations the hospital will take your health insurance to pay the hospital bill. This is very important because if you do not use your health insurance to pay the bill, the hospital or attorney representing the hospital may file a lien on your accident case. So, in other words, let’s assume that the insurance company of the at-fault driver offers you $10,000 to settle your accident case. However, the hospital has filed a lien with the insurance company for $3,000. The insurance company will pay $3,000 out of the settlement to the hospital, so you will get a net total of $7,000.
This can be very disappointing, especially when you learn that you could have used your health insurance to pay the $3,000 hospital bill. If you use your health insurance to pay your hospital bill, you would get the full $10,000 that the insurance company is paying to resolve your claim. Your health insurance provider may subrogate, or seek some reimbursement for paying your hospital bill, but these subrogation claims are usually relatively small, and nowhere near the amount of the total hospital lien.
Why Should I Use My Own Health Insurance?
Many clients that we see go to the hospital immediately after an accident. I believe it is wise to get checked out at the hospital, but what I have observed over the years is that the hospital will run up large bills for treatment of people injured in a car accident.
Generally, if you have health insurance, it is best to use it to pay for your hospital and ER physician bills. Hopefully, your medical (health) insurance will pay all, or most, of your hospital bill. If you do not have health insurance or do not provide the hospital with your health insurance information, the hospital will go through their attorney, who will likely file a hospital lien against your auto accident case (OSGA § 44-14-470).
A hospital lien can cause all sorts of problems for you when you try to settle your personal injury claims against an at-fault driver.
Here is an example:
Let’s say “Bob” is in an accident, and he is rear-ended by another driver. Bob goes to the hospital and gets some x-rays and medical treatment. His medical bills with the hospital total $3,000.00. Bob does not use his health insurance because he thinks the at-fault driver’s insurance will pay his medical bills.
Bob goes to see a chiropractor after the accident and treats with the chiropractor for two months. The chiropractor bill is $3,000.00. When Bob presents these bills to the at-fault driver’s insurance company, the insurance company offers Bob $7,000.00 to settle his case, $3,000.00 for the hospital bill, $3,000.00 for the chiropractic bill, and $1,000.00 for pain and suffering. After Bob pays the hospital and chiropractor bills, he is only left with $1,000.00. If Bob had used his health insurance to pay his hospital bill, he would only have to pay the chiropractor $3,000.00 out of his settlement, so Bob would have $4,000.00 for himself (he might be able to use health insurance to pay some of the chiropractor bills as well).
Please be advised that Bob’s health insurance may make a subrogation claim against Bob to seek repayment for some of the money that they paid out for the hospital bill, but subrogation claims are generally negotiated with the health insurance provider.
Should I Keep Getting Medical Treatment If I Am Feeling Better?
I always advise clients that the question of whether you should continue medical treatment is a question between you and your doctor. Sometimes, we see clients feel significantly better after medical treatment, but sometimes, that relief is only temporary. I often like to talk to the doctor when a client has completed treatment or is about to be released. Sometimes, we ask a doctor to write a medical narrative or give a deposition. The doctor can further elaborate on the extent of the injury, and the possible long-term medical care and treatment for the injury. Of course, this can help with establishing a more reasonable value for your overall case.
I am missing work because of an injury. Can I get reimbursed for my time off?
Generally, you can get reimbursed for your lost wages, which results from you not being able to perform your job duties. However, it is very important to have a medical doctor state in writing that based on the injuries from your auto accident, you are not able to perform your job duties. He should be reasonable in documenting the time that he says that you are unable to perform your job duties.
Usually, a doctor will recommend a period of time that you are not medically able to perform your job duties. The medical records should be updated every time you see the doctor to update whether or not you are able to return to work. If in fact, a doctor says that you can return to work, your claim for lost wages may end at that point.
Disclaimer: It is important to note that this is general information, and should not be considered “legal advice.” I have been handling personal injury cases for many years, and can offer general answers to common questions, but please do not construe anything on this website to be legal advice about YOUR CASE. Each case is different! An attorney can only give legal advice when he or she understands the facts involved in your case.