Paying for Medical Treatment After a Car Accident in Colorado
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, you deserve to receive the right medical treatment to help you achieve the best possible recovery. But how will you pay for that medical care? You may require months or years of treatment. In addition to hospitalization, you will need to consult with doctors and receive rehabilitation. With the rising costs of medical care, you can run up tens of thousands in medical bills very quickly.
You may have a variety of options for paying for care or recovering reimbursement for expenses you’ve already paid, depending on your situation. Car accident attorneys who frequently help accident victims receive the care they need can help you find the best options and work to ensure you receive proper care and that your costs are covered.
Overview of Health Insurance Options
Some people have private health insurance through an employer or paid for independently. Others have insurance through government agencies such as Medicare and Medicaid. Still, others have no health insurance currently.
Medical providers often bill health insurance providers directly first, regardless of whether someone else will be paying the bills in the long run. If public or private health insurance covers the cost of care and you later receive an award for damages that includes amounts for those costs, the insurance company will probably seek reimbursement for the amounts they have paid. This is known as subrogation. If you receive a payment, you are legally required to reimburse Medicaid and Medicare, and the same legal obligation generally extends to private insurance as well.
Med Pay Coverage
Until 2003, Colorado operated under a system that required drivers to buy Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance to cover many of their medical costs after a crash, regardless of fault. This type of coverage is no longer required, and accident victims may now seek compensation from those responsible for causing the accident, such as distracted or drunk drivers. However, some people still choose to purchase Med Pay insurance through their car insurance company. This type of policy pays for the medical expenses of the policyholder and other people in their vehicle when they are involved in an accident, even if someone else holds the blame for causing the accident.
When an accident victim uses Med Pay to cover the cost of medical treatment, they do not need to reimburse the insurance company even if they receive compensation through a lawsuit to cover those expenses. Med Pay covers medical expenses deemed to be “reasonable,” including costs for hospital care, ambulance transportation, medical expenses, and physical therapy. However, Med Pay coverage will be limited by the policy maximum, which is often a low amount.
Ultimate Responsibility Lies with the Accident Victim
Regardless of whether you have health insurance or not, the law places the ultimate responsibility for medical costs on your shoulders. So if your insurer refuses to pay or limits your coverage or sets a high deductible, healthcare providers can take legal action to seek payment from you. You may have options to seek reimbursement from others, including those at fault for causing the accident. This is why it is so important to take steps to protect your legal rights as soon as possible after an accident. It takes time to pursue claims through car insurance companies or through a lawsuit.
An insurer or the responsible party may offer a quick settlement after an accident, but when that happens, it usually means that they are offering a much smaller amount than the claim is worth hoping that you won’t investigate or consult a lawyer to find out much you really should be receiving. An attorney can help you take the best course of action and collect and preserve evidence to support your claim early on while the evidence is most readily available.
If You Don’t Have Health Insurance, a Medical Lien Could Be the Answer
Because you usually will not receive compensation from the person responsible for an accident until after you have received a great deal of medical care, it can be difficult to pay for medical bills without health insurance. However, you do have options. One option is to execute a medical lien. This is a contract between you and your medical provider. It specifies that the provider will be paid for services directly from the proceeds of your personal injury lawsuit or insurance settlement.
A lien is a legal claim or right against something that is usually used as collateral. By creating this lien, you are giving the provider the right to get payment from the claim before you receive funds. In exchange, they would provide medical services without requiring payment at the time of service.
After you execute the agreement, the healthcare provider may take steps to “perfect” the lien by notifying others involved in the case of their claim.
Colorado’s Medical Lien Statute
A medical lien is not always the best course of action and has been known to leave an accident victim responsible for additional costs with no resources if the settlement or judgment is not enough to cover all medical costs. However, state lawmakers enacted a medical lien statute that provides some protection to accident victims. The law specifies that:
- Providers must notify the patient of other payment options such as health insurance
- The medical lien may not be assigned to a collection agency
- The medical provider cannot attempt to collect the lien funds from the patient if there is no verdict or settlement
- If the verdict or settlement is not sufficient to cover the medical lien, the patient does not have to pay the rest on their own
Before executing a medical lien to pay for care after any type of accident, it is a good idea to consult a knowledgeable personal injury attorney to determine if that is the best option and to protect rights and interests in the process.
Get Help from Accident Attorneys Who Fight for Your Best Interests
Recovering your health should be your first priority after an auto accident, but it can be hard to focus on healing when you are worried about paying your bills. Assistance from an experienced accident lawyer can help right from the start and allow you and your family to rebuild your lives and move forward.