I Was in an Auto Accident - Should I Wait to Pay My Bills?
The ever-rising cost of medical care has been a topic of national concern for many years now. And, unfortunately, if you have been injured in an automobile accident, you’ve probably incurred costly medical treatment as a result. Understandably, medical care providers request prompt payment for their services. Also understandably, victims injured in an automobile accident are frustrated when they receive medical bills caused not by their own conduct, but by the sheer negligence of another driver.
Almost everyone agrees that it is only fair that the wrongdoer be held responsible. However, sorting out liability claims, as well as all the applicable insurance coverages, can be time consuming. Thus, the concept that a medical professional should be paid promptly for his or her services sometimes conflicts with the slower pace of the resolution of the business and legal issues in the case. All of this leads many individuals injured in automobile accidents to ask whether they should go ahead and pay their medical bills out of pocket, or wait until something is resolved.
What’s Personal Injury Protection Coverage?
Luckily for Oregon drivers, the State requires all automobile liability insurance policies to contain personal injury protection coverage (often referred to as “PIP”). PIP pays reasonable and necessary medical, hospital, and other costs, up to $15,000.00. PIP is a no-fault form of insurance, meaning your own policy pays your expenses, regardless of who caused the accident.
In the past, medical treatment had to be received within 12 months of the accident. However, recent changes to the law benefit some Oregon insureds. For insurance policies purchased or renewed on or after January 1, 2016, an insured can now receive benefits for treatment received within two years of the accident. Because PIP benefits are typically paid relatively promptly, it is usually acceptable to wait for these benefits to pay medical expenses, rather than making out of pocket payments. PIP coverage may have a deductible, up to $250.00.
For additional information on PIP and other automobile insurance coverage issues, please see our previous blog post The Ins & Outs of Car Insurance in Oregon.
Can the Insurance Company Deny PIP payments?
If the insurance company believes that your medical treatment is not reasonable or necessary, or not related to the automobile accident at issue, it may refuse to pay under the policy. We have seen a variety of circumstances under which insurance companies alleged that they were not required to make payments under the policies they issued. We have also seen insurance companies and defense lawyers request that an injured victim submit to an evaluation from a non-treating doctor (called an “independent medical examination”) to prove they should receive insurance coverage payments. It’s important to understand that independent medical examinations are not always required, even when requested. If you are having difficulties with an insurance company, please contact us to discuss your case. We are well-versed in this area and have handled thousands of insurance-related issues.
For tips on how to deal with unhelpful insurance companies, check out The Insurance Company Isn’t Helpful- What Should I Do?
Are There Other Possible Sources of Insurance if PIP is Exhausted?
Yes. First, there is your own health insurance policy. Under normal circumstances, it is reasonable to wait for health insurance to pay medical bills, rather than paying them out of pocket.
Additionally, you can ultimately collect from the responsible party, who should be covered by liability insurance. If the responsible party is uninsured, or has inadequate insurance, you may be able to collect under your own uninsured (or underinsured) motorist coverage. However, these payments are made at the end of the case. Thus, due to the length of time that can pass before final resolution of the case, if you are waiting for payments under these forms of coverage, you may be forced to make payments out of pocket in the meantime.
What If I’ve Exhausted PIP Coverage, Don’t Have Health Insurance, & Cannot Pay?
Some accident victims who do not have health insurance are entitled to Medicaid (also called “Oregon Health Plan”) or Medicare benefits. All Oregonians can receive substantial discounts on prescription medications by enrolling in the Oregon Prescription Drug Program. Additionally, our experienced attorneys have worked out payment plans and other agreements with doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers on behalf of our clients, which allow them to continue receiving treatment. In some instances, health care providers will work with us to allow payment at the conclusion of the case.
Can the Lawyers at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield Help?
If you’ve been injured in an accident, call the experienced attorneys at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield for a free consultation. We have handled thousands of cases just like yours and understand the intricacies and interactions of complicated insurance policies. We also understand that the cost of medical treatment is sometimes overwhelming. If you don’t have funds to pay for treatment, we can help you seek a solution by working with your medical care providers. And ultimately, we can help you obtain the recovery you deserve by holding the wrongdoer responsible.