Let’s talk worst case scenarios for a moment.
Imagine you are in a truck accident. Imagine you get injured. Imagine the injuries are so bad they require surgery.
As an accident victim, your focus should be on healing. But we know the top concern running through your mind is “How am I going to pay for this surgical procedure?”
If you suffered serious injuries in an auto accident, especially injuries that required surgery, you’ll have hefty medical bills to take care of. Anesthesia alone can cost more than $3,500. You also have to worry about the cost of using the hospital’s space and paying for your doctor.
What if one of the emergency room doctors or surgeons is out of your insurance network? How can you pay those bills—especially if your injuries are bad enough to keep you out of work? Take a look with the experienced Houston truck accident attorneys at Stewart J. Guss, Injury Accident Lawyers
Step One: Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
When you have substantial medical bills and surgical costs from your accident, they can be hard to keep track of… let alone pay. You need a personal injury attorney to help you evaluate your rights to take legal action. You could obtain compensation to help you pay those bills. An experienced personal injury attorney can provide a great deal of assistance, including:
Writing a Letter of Protection
Sometimes you just don’t have the funds to pay your doctors immediately. Not only do you have your usual bills and expenses to pay, you have those new, large medical bills and a temporary lack of income because your injury keeps you out of work.
This doesn’t mean you should forego the care you need.
There’s a glimmer of hope. You and your attorney expect you can pay your medical bills once you receive a settlement or judgment against the parties who caused your crash. Of course, achieving that outcome takes time—months, sometimes years—so you need to address that delay with the medical providers you owe.
That’s where a letter of protection comes in.
A letter of protection is, essentially, a promise to pay your medical bills when your settlement arrives. Medical practices will often accept a letter of protection as a way to give you some financial breathing room while you heal from an auto accident injuries and pursue claims for damages. Ask an experienced truck accident attorney about whether you might benefit from sending a letter of protection to your medical providers. They can arrange this for you.
Collecting and Evaluating Evidence
Attorneys know the critical importance of evidence to any truck accident injury claim. Evidence proves liability and damages. It is the foundation on which a claim for compensation rests.
By collecting and evaluating evidence, an attorney generally seeks to accomplish two primary objectives.
First, the attorney wants to know who has legal liability to you for your injuries, and who has the ability to pay. In a truck accident case, attorneys often examine the following parties who may have liability:
- The driver of the other vehicle in your accident. They may have made careless or reckless decisions behind the wheel that led to your injuries.
- The employer of that driver. If the accident happened while the driver was working and driving a commercial vehicle, the employer could be liable.
- A mechanic who recently worked on a vehicle. If mechanical failure led to the accident, an irresponsible mechanic may be to blame.
- The manufacturer of the vehicle. If a manufacturer’s defect in the vehicle caused a mechanical failure, they can be held liable.
- A local government entity. That’s right: if an unreasonably dangerous and preventable road condition or other public hazard caused the accident, the local government could take the blame for your injuries.
Finding multiple parties who contributed to your accident is important. It can substantially increase the likelihood of receiving maximum compensation for your crash injuries. Commercial drivers and companies, for example, often carry insurance policies with substantially higher coverage limits than those carried by individual drivers.
Second, the attorney usually wants to know how badly you’ve been harmed by the accident. Your medical bills for surgery and other care constitute part of that harm, but so do any wages you miss out on while your crash injuries keep you out of work. In addition, your attorney may want to evaluate the non-monetary harm you suffered because of a truck accident, such as the degree of your physical discomfort and emotional anguish, and the negative impact the accident has had on your quality of life. These things matter, too.
To help accomplish these objectives, an attorney may:
- Interview witnesses to the accident. Witness statements can help explain exactly what led to the accident and who should bear the blame for it. Attorneys tend to want to speak with witnesses sooner rather than later, since memories can fade fast. Getting a witness on the record quickly can preserve the accuracy of their statements.
- Locate and examine video footage of the accident. Some vehicles carry dash cams, which will record the accident. In other cases, an attorney might discover that a traffic camera or a security camera captured footage of the accident. This kind of evidence can prove invaluable in establishing fault.
- Consult with an expert witness. Often, an expert witness can provide an additional perspective that will help identify exactly what elements led to your accident and, as a result, what party bears liability for the accident. Experts can also help an attorney evaluate the scope of harm a client has suffered. They can do this by predicting the client’s future medical needs or calculating the value of wages the injury will cause the client to lose over time.
Acting on Your Behalf
An attorney serves as your representative when dealing with insurance companies and defense attorneys, and with the court system. They may engage with all three over the course of the case, including:
An initial settlement offer from the insurance company. Early on after your accident—sometimes even before you have your first surgery, if it’s not an emergency—you may receive a settlement offer from the other party’s insurance company. Be warned: this offer rarely represents the full amount you deserve for your injuries. Instead, this is the insurance company’s attempt at limiting its financial responsibility by trying to tempt you into accepting less money than you really need to pay for your surgery and other expenses associated with the accident.
Do not accept this offer without talking to an attorney.
An experienced truck accident injury attorney sees the big picture. They can evaluate a settlement offer and advise you as to whether it fits your immediate and long-term financial needs. Sometimes, simply knowing that you have an attorney on your side will encourage the insurance company to make a better offer.
The “demand.” At some point, an attorney usually sends a “demand” to the party or parties who have legal liability for your injuries. This can take the form of a letter directly to that party, its insurer, or its defense lawyer, or it may take the form of a court filing that initiates a lawsuit for damages.
Stages of negotiation. After demanding compensation on your behalf, the attorney often has a series of discussions with representatives of the legally liable party to discuss the merits of your claim and the amount of money you should receive. Sometimes, a mediator will help facilitate those discussions. Often, these negotiations will lead to a favorable settlement in which you release the party from liability to you in exchange for a payment of money.
Court. Sometimes parties cannot reach an agreement on a settlement, and a case will proceed to trial. An experienced truck accident lawyer is always prepared to square off in court. They have the skills and resources to represent you at trial and to explain to a judge and jury exactly why you deserve maximum compensation.
These are just some of the services an attorney can provide for an injured truck accident victim. Every case is different, and so is the role a lawyer may play. However, in all cases, attorneys for accident victims have one purpose in mind: to represent the injured victims’ best interests to achieve the most favorable financial outcome possible.
In other words, lawyers work to make sure you can pay for the surgeries you need.
Step Two: Consult Your Insurance Company
Next to an attorney, your health insurance company may provide one of the most important tools when it comes to paying medical bills. Soon after your accident, contact your health insurance company to let them know what has happened. (They may have already heard from your medical provider, too.) You may need to:
Explain the circumstances of the accident. Your insurance company may want to know who caused or contributed to your accident and how it occurred. If you end up recovering compensation from a legally liable party for your injuries and expenses, your health insurance company may have the right to get reimbursed for some of the expenses it paid on your behalf through a legal mechanism called subrogation. An attorney can explain how this works in further detail.
Confirm the scope of your coverage. Many people don’t read the fine print of their health insurance until they need it. What does your insurance actually cover? You may need to ask about copays and deductibles for:
- Specific types of surgeries
- Visits with your doctor, including follow-up visits
- Durable medical equipment and mobility aids
- Physical therapy
You should also ask how much coverage you will receive for some areas of care, including physical therapy as you recover from your surgery. For example, some insurance companies will only provide a certain number of visits to a physical therapist each year. Confirm this information upfront so you can make informed decisions about your medical care.
Don’t forget your personal injury protection coverage. In some states, drivers must carry personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. PIP serves as the primary coverage to pay for medical and disability related expenses after an auto accident. You probably know whether or not you carry PIP coverage, but an attorney can alert your PIP insurance carrier to your accident and explain your need for compensation.
Step Three: Talk to Your Medical Providers About Payment
Your surgeon knows paying for surgery – especially unexpected surgery – can prove difficult for the average accident victim. While your surgeon also has costs to consider, including the cost of paying a salary for office staff and keeping that office up and running, your surgeon or surgical center may work with you on fees if you can discuss your financial needs and limitations ahead of time. (This is where letters of protection, discussed above, often come in handy.) There’s more you can do:
- Talk to the hospital to see what programs exist to help with care. Many hospitals have programs that will help cover some or all of the cost of your medical care, especially if you fall into a low-income category or have injuries that will require long-term treatment and care. Contact the hospital to learn more about what programs the hospital has available. If you can wait to have your surgery, you may choose to contact more than one local hospital and get quotes to find the most cost-effective place to have your surgery. Keep in mind that even if you talk to the hospital, you may also need to get in touch with medical providers if they send you separate bills.
- Set up a payment arrangement or installment plan. Many medical providers, including hospitals, will not send your bill to collections as long as you make a good faith effort to continue making payments toward it. Make arrangements that will allow you to make payments, even small payments, toward your surgery each month. This can help bridge the gap between the procedure and your ability to pay. You may need to contact each provider you owe in order to establish these payment arrangements.
Dealing with the complicated payment arrangements after a surgical procedure can cause considerable stress and hardship for anyone. Patients who have suffered severe injuries have enough to juggle with managing their recoveries.
If you need help handling the tasks associated with paying your medical bills, especially seeking compensation from the party that caused your injuries, contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. You might not know what you’re entitled to, but it’s our job to!