Obtaining the Medical Care You Need After a Car Accident
Traffic Accidents can be very scary. Whether it is your first or you have been down this road before, there are some things you should know as you make medical decisions going forward. This article will help you understand your options as well as what actions are important for you to take promptly.
Seek Immediate Medical Attention
If you suspect you are injured as a result of an accident someone else caused, you should seek medical care immediately for two reasons:
- Some injuries do not manifest immediately, and;
- Insurance companies use delays and gaps in care against you.
Reasons for Unseen Injury or Delaying Feeling of Pain
The human body is an amazing work of art. It has the capacity to protect and heal itself in many respects. As a result of this, we often have a tendency to blow off injuries and assume our body will just heal itself with time and rest. Many times when a person suffers an injury in a car accident, however, the body has a difficult time healing by itself.
Injuries from auto collisions are extremely common. The forces involved in two 4000-5000 lb. vehicle collision is immense, even as seemingly slow speeds. While manufacturers are doing more and more to design vehicles to take these impacts with less damage, the human body remains the same. It is not designed for the pulling, twisting and tearing to muscles and ligaments that a whiplash injury can produce.
Pain from the Body’s Reaction
Sometimes the effects of a whiplash injury are not fully realized at the scene of an accident. There are several reasons for this. First off, the muscle and ligament stretching and tearing above causes the human body to go into a healing mode. Your body begins to produce fluids in the damaged area. Swelling occurs and the site of injury. As your body stiffens up from these effects, you often begin to feel more and more discomfort. This may take hours or even days.
Stress-Induced Analgesia Masking the Pain
There is a condition known as “stress-induced analgesia” that sometimes occurs following the scare of an accident and enables an injured person to temporarily block out the pain mentally. When a person is in a very stressful situation, the body releases noradrenaline into the bloodstream. Noradrenaline a/k/a norepinephrine is a hormone that act as a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system and sympathetic nervous system that blocks the transmission of pain to the brain. When a person is “stressed-out” by an accident, they may block out the pain until a later point at which things calm down, the noradrenaline levels return to normal as suddenly pain is perceived by the brain again.
If you suspect injury at all or suspect that your body is making pain, you should seek immediate medical attention. Emergency rooms for hospitals as well as independent centers are a good place to start.
Adjusters Use Lack of Care to Deny or Low-Ball Claims
Another reason to seek necessary medical care promptly is that it will benefit you when filing an auto accident claim. Thanks to tort-reform in this country, juries are very distrusting of people claiming injuries in auto collisions—particularly injuries that they cannot see objectively. Insurance adjusters know this. The more they can misguide you into not seeking care in a prompt and reasonable manner, the lower the value of your claim in the eyes of jurors and adjusters. Additionally, many adjusters use computer software to analyze your claim. This software is just an algorithm that adds or decreases the settlement offer they will make based upon certain activities you took that they input into the system. Here are some of the medical care mistakes they commonly deduct from your offer for:
- Not calling an ambulance
- Not going to a hospital from the scene
- Delays in seeking the initial medical care
- Delays in following up after the initial medical care
- Not following doctor’s orders
- Missing scheduled appointments
- Gaps in your medical care
- Not filling prescriptions
- Seeking “alternative,” “holistic,” or “experimental” types of medical care
If you do not want to get treated unfairly, your best bet is to seek reasonable and appropriate medical care promptly for your injuries and follow the doctor’s orders. You should also consider a consult with a personal injury attorney if you have not already done so.
Should I Use Health Insurance?
Yes. If you have health insurance that will cover your medical care, you should give this information to your medical providers.
Many people ask: “but why should my insurance have to pay when I did not cause the accident?”
When you are involved in an accident, health insurance policies will often pay the bills up front and seek reimbursement from a third-party insurance carrier and/or out of any settlement later. This is called insurance subrogation. If your health insurance company refuses to pay, you should consider contacting the Texas board of insurance and reporting them.
Caveat: Some medical providers (like many primary care physicians) refused to see you under health insurance for certain types of accidents. That is because they know that some health insurers will give them the runaround about paying when there is a third-party insurer involved. Again, consider a complaint to the State Board of Insurance if this is happening to you.
Should I use Medicare or Medicaid?
Medicare specifically states in the statute and on their website that they are secondary to any other insurance. Neither you nor your medical providers are supposed to file a claim through Medicare if there is another insurance company to recover from. However, sometimes Medicare does pay for care related to an accident by oversight. If this occurs, they will seek reimbursement out of any settlement or judgment you obtain. You have a legal obligation to reimburse them out of any money recovered.
Medicaid generally will pay for medical care up front and then seek reimbursement through subrogation. You have a legal obligation to reimburse them out of any money recovered.
Will Car Insurance Cover My Medical Expenses?
The other party’s insurance company will generally not pay for your medical care as you get treatment. They will also not give you advice on seeking care generally. More specifically, you should not ask for their advice in obtaining care because they owe a duty to their insured to hold down your cost, not to help you get better. Delays and gaps in your care work to their benefit.
Your own insurance can be helpful in seeking medical care if you have personal injury protection or medpay coverage. Both of these can help cover initial bills, copays and deductibles for medical care. Be aware you need to check your limits of coverage. Most of these policies we see are very low ranging from $2,500 to $10,000 with the exception of some USAA personal injury protection policies that go up to 50,000 or 100,000. These policies can also cover therapy and chiropractic costs.
No Medical Coverage
If you do not have an health insurance, pip/medpay, Medicare or Medicaid, there are still ways to obtain the medical care you need to recover from your injury. An attorney can issue a letter of protection (LOP) to medical providers who accept LOPs. A letter of protection is simply a letter promising that the bills will be paid out of any settlement or judgment obtained. If no recovery is made, however, the person receiving the treatment is still responsible for the bills.
Paul Cannon has practiced personal injury trial law since 1995. He is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law (2005). He has earned recognition as a Super Lawyer by Thompson Reuters in 2017 & 2018, and as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers Association in 2017. He is a Shareholder, trial lawyer and online marketing manager at Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. His legal writings have been published by the Texas Bar Journal, Business.com, Lawyer.com HG Legal Resources, Lawfirms.com, and others. He has been asked to give education talks and media interviews on dog bite law.