This question weighs heavily on the minds of many car accident victims. Many Houston families barely make ends meet. So, under normal circumstances, they cannot pay accident-related medical bills. These costs average over $55,000. Car accident medical bills could easily be $5 million or more in a catastrophic injury case.
Furthermore, the post-accident period is hardly a “normal” time for most families. Since the victim most likely isn’t working, there is no money coming in to pay medical or other bills. Making matters worse, insurance adjusters often call repeatedly with settlement offers. Naturally, it’s very tempting to take such an offer and try to move on. But the problem is that the victim simply has no idea if the request is fair or not.
As outlined below, a partnership with a Houston personal injury attorney addresses all these areas. However, helping to pay medical bills and help during a challenging period in life is just the beginning. For example, when a car crash case goes to court, an attorney gives victims solid legal advice unavailable elsewhere to make the best possible decisions for themselves and their families.
Car Accident Injuries
Today’s cars and trucks are much safer than those available in the 1990s. But today’s vehicles are also much heavier and faster than those previously for sale. Unfortunately, the safety innovations have not kept pace with the overall design changes. As a result, many car accident victims sustain physical and emotional injuries.
After several years of decline, fatal car crashes increased significantly in 2020. This figure increased even more sharply in 2021. Some common vehicle collision injuries include:
- Internal Injuries: When emergency responders arrive at accident scenes, they are understandably concerned with visible injuries, like surface lacerations. Therefore, internal injuries, mostly internal bleeding, are not promptly treated. Since internal organs have no protective skin layers, they usually bleed worse than surface lacerations. As a result, many victims lose about a fifth of their blood before reaching a hospital.
- Broken Bones: Unlike internal injuries, broken bones are usually permanent. The extreme force in a high-speed collision shatters bones. So, doctors must often use metal parts for surgery. The aggressive treatment means more difficult physical therapy.
- Head Injuries: Seat belts, airbags, and other internal safety restraint systems cannot protect against whiplash, a common head-neck injury in vehicle collisions. The motion injures several nerves when the neck violently stamps backward and forward. Since it’s a soft tissue injury, whiplash doesn’t appear on X-rays and other common diagnostic images. So, this injury, which could cause paralysis, is tough to diagnose.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is the most common emotional injury associated with car wrecks. About half of these victims deal with long-term symptoms such as:
- Trouble sleeping,
- Moodswings, and
- Hypervigilance (an irrational fear of traveling or certain roads or expressways).
Contrary to popular myth, PTSD is not a processing disorder that randomly affects some people and not others. Instead, a chemical imbalance in the brain causes PTSD. Since this condition has a chemical cause, it requires chemical treatment. Unfortunately, PTSD drugs are powerful and they have many side effects. Additionally, not everyone can tolerate these medicines.
Immediate Help Paying Car Accident Medical Bills
Medical treatment for all these injuries sounds expensive, and it is costly. Yet, generally, group health insurance companies refuse to pay injury-related costs. Moreover, if there is any chance another party, such as a negligent driver, might cover the expense, health insurance companies usually don’t pay for them.
A Houston personal injury lawyer usually sends letters of protection to medical providers to prevent car crash victims from being stuck with high medical bills. These letters guarantee payment when the case is settled or otherwise resolved. So, the providers usually agree to defer billing or collection until the end of the case. In short, victims who work with lawyers get access to top-notch medical treatment, which costs them nothing upfront.
Attorneys usually make arrangements with other car accident providers, like rental car agencies and body shops.
Long-Term Payment Assistance
Since attorneys are good negotiators, they can usually do more than defer medical bill payments. In many cases, since the letter of protection creates negotiating leverage, they reduce the amount due. This reduction could affect the final settlement, primarily because of Texas’s complex collateral source rule.
There’s frequently a difference between the amount billed and the amount charged when it comes to medical bills. If Sam gets an MRI at a hospital, the hospital might charge $3,000 for that service. But due to insurance company reimbursement regulations, it might only bill $1,000.
Roughly the same thing happens in many car crash cases. If Sam was hit by a car, his insurance company might pay part of the bill. As mentioned above, most health insurance companies don’t pay injury-related costs. But some do. Others don’t investigate the reason for the charges and just write checks.
More importantly, as outlined above, an attorney might negotiate a medical bill reduction. In both these situations, the collateral source rule kicks in. According to the Texas Supreme Court, “a wrongdoer should not have the benefit of insurance independently procured by the injured party, and to which the wrongdoer was not privy.”
The insurance company shouldn’t benefit because the victim was responsible enough to buy health insurance or wise enough to work with a reasonable Houston personal injury attorney.
However, there are some limits. According to this same case, the “claimant” shouldn’t get a “windfall.” Once again in plain English, victims shouldn’t get double payment for their medical bills: once from their insurance companies and once from the tortfeasor (negligent party).
So, most judges scrutinize collateral source payments to ensure the rule’s application is fair to both parties. But here’s the bottom line. If Sam’s medical bills were $50,000 and his lawyer reduced the bill to $40,000, his medical bills are probably still $50,000 for purposes of accident compensation. Therefore, Sam could get to keep the extra money.
Lawyers help victims pay medical bills. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Houston, contact Williams Hart & Boundas Boundas LLP. We routinely handle matters in Harris County and nearby jurisdictions.