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Protect Your Credit: Medical Debt After An Automobile Accident

Screen Shot 2013-07-12 at 1.53.33 PM.pngWhen recovering from an automobile accident, the last thing you need is to worry about the medical bills you’re accumulating. Being hurt is physically and emotionally exhausting enough. Unfortunately, auto accidents are unexpected occurrences with potentially long-lasting financial effects, in addition to any physical injuries you ultimately sustain. Even though drivers in Maine are required to have vehicle insurance that in some instances may cover a portion of your medical expenses, an injured party may consider filing a personal injury claim to ensure that all of their medical bills will be paid. Unfortunately, personal injury claims arising from a car accident can potentially take much longer to resolve than vehicle damage claims.

Hospital bills for serious injuries can run into the six figures range, but even paying several thousand dollars for an emergency room visit can be very difficult for most people to pay in the time frame required by hospitals. The reason it may be important not to take a quick low-ball settlement offer is that you may find that your injuries are longer lasting than originally believed. This is particularly true with back injuries.

If you were injured through the fault of another, it can take a long time to receive a settlement or get to trial. In the meantime, doctors and hospitals may send unpaid bills to collections. In order to get out from under the debt, many people consider filing for bankruptcy. Medical debt is a contributing factor in over 62% of individual bankruptcies filed in the U.S. There are some good organizations that offer advice on how to deal with medical debt, however.

Below are some specific ways to make sure your credit isn’t affected by crippling medical debt as you wait for your case to settle or go to trial. Bankruptcy should be a last resort. It is important to be proactive, rather than waiting for collections agents to start harassing you.

You can start getting your medical bills paid so that your credit is not affected while you wait for your case to settle. There are two ways to do this. The first way is to ask your health insurance company to pay the bill at their discounted rate by submitting your card at the time of treatment. They will eventually need to be reimbursed from your settlement money. Not all health insurers will do this, however. It is certainly worth it to ask and find out if yours will.

The second possible way to get the bills paid is to ask your automobile insurer to pay the bill under a medical payments policy. Maine law requires all automobile policies to have medical payments coverage. You can find the amount of coverage on your declaration page. This may not cover everything, but it can help. The lawyer representing you in the lawsuit against the other driver may be able to facilitate communications and payments with the automobile insurer.

If neither of these avenues is available to you, another possibility is to ask your physicians if they will accept a “letter of protection” from your lawyer. This is a written letter confirming you have a lawsuit pending and asking them to wait until you have collected a settlement to send the bill to collections. Doctors are not required to accept a letter of protection, but sometimes they will.

If none of the above work, another possibility is to negotiate with the doctors or hospitals to set up a payment plan. Many hospitals and doctors will work with you to do this, if you ask upfront — either at the time of service or not long thereafter. This allows you to make periodic payments that can be managed within your budget. As with other aspects of the lawsuit, it’s important to keep a record of your payments in a worksheet or other organized document and stay on top of payments, so that you can ask for reimbursement as part of the settlement and avoid damaging your credit score. You can give this record or worksheet to your personal injury attorney to use.

If you or a love one has been injured in a car accident that was another person’s fault, you should consult with an experienced Maine personal injury attorney. The skills of an attorney with a strong reputation may provide sufficient motivation for another driver’s insurer to help you secure the most favorable outcome possible for your case.

At Briggs & Wholey, our knowledgeable attorneys are available to answer any questions you may have and help you file your personal injury claim. To schedule a free consultation with an experienced advocate, please contact Briggs & Wholey, LLC through our website today.

More Blog Posts:

Study Claims Drivers in Maine and Across the U.S. Are Distracted More Than They Realize, Maine Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, June 13, 2013
One Hurt in Negligent York County Traffic Wreck, Maine Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, June 7, 2013Contact us at (888) 596-1099 or via our online form.