Drivers face many challenges. In addition to busy streets, highways and intersections, poor road conditions – such as wet pavement from snow or freezing rain – can increase the risk of auto accidents. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, nearly 6 million auto accidents occur each year and approximately 22% (1,259,000) of those accidents are weather-related, resulting in more than 445,000 injuries annually.
If you experience an orthopedic injury from an auto accident, you may wonder who is going to pay for your medical care. Insurance-related complexities often make the process difficult to understand. Below, we take a closer look at how medical bills are typically paid after motor vehicle accidents. We also encourage you to consult with your health and auto insurance providers to learn what is covered under your policies.
Auto Insurance Coverage & Patient Responsibility
Health insurance companies typically deny payment on medical claims stemming from injuries sustained in motor vehicle accidents. Instead, the insurance industry requires medical providers to bill auto insurance companies for medical services provided after an auto accident. Auto insurance companies then pay the medical claims using the insured’s personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, which is often referred to as “no-fault car insurance.”
Depending on the situation and extent of injuries, PIP funds can quickly be exhausted with a single trip to the emergency room, leaving little to no remaining money for specialized care like orthopedic services. It can take up to several days for the legal system to determine the responsible party for an auto accident, and until such a determination is made, each patient has a personal responsibility to pay his or her own medical bills.
Therefore, regardless of whether the patient has insurance, it is common for medical practices to require a deposit from patients when scheduling specialized care following a motor vehicle accident. It is also common to collect payment from the patient at the time the service is rendered. Victims of motor vehicle accidents may then seek reimbursement for these services through an insurance settlement. In some cases, the patient’s health insurance may cover the cost of medical bills and ultimately reimburse the patient.
Because this process is not well-known to many consumers, it is important to take time to understand your coverage and responsibilities, and do what you can to avoid unwanted surprises following an accident. And please, stay safe on the roads, especially during bad weather and heavy traffic!