MEDICAL BILLS AND COLLECTIONS AFTER A VIRGINIA CAR ACCIDENT
Collections and Medical Bills After a Car Accident
After you have been hurt in a car accident in Virginia, chances are you went to a hospital for evaluation and treatment of your injuries. You may have had radiology studies done, too, such as Xrays, CT scans (called CAT-scans by most), or even MRIs. All of these services result in medical bills that the healthcare provider is going to want to have paid. So, after you have been in a car accident that was not your fault, what should you do? The Alexandria Injury Attorney explains.
Hospital Treatment and Surprise Bills
After your visit to a hospital, such as INOVA Alexandria for example, you will receive a bill in the mail from INOVA. This covers the hospital itself, and its staff and equipment. But, it does not cover the emergency room doctors! Emergency room physicians very rarely work for the hospital itself, despite the fact that they wear INOVA labcoats. In the case of INOVA Alexandria, these doctors work for a company known as Alexandria-Springfield Emergency Physicians (which is, in turn, owned by Emergency Medicine Associates, a company that runs ER doctors services for many hospitals in Virginia). The ER doctors have their own, second bill that is separate from the hospital bill.
Again, keeping with the example of INOVA Alexandria, if you had any imaging testing done, then the radiologist also bills separately. For treatment at INOVA Alexandria, this practice is called the Association of Alexandria Radiologists. This is specifically the doctor who reads (or interprets) the imaging scan. The xray-tech and the machine fall under the hospital's bill.
In short, after a post-car accident trip to the emergency room, you may have as many as three separate bills that need to be paid!
How to Ensure the Medical Bills are Paid
If you have been involved in a car accident, then the first thing you need to do, after getting medical treatment, is speak to an experienced car accident attorney, like Joe Blaszkow and the team at Blaszkow Legal. One of the first things we do as we open up a file is ensure that all of your medical bills are properly submitted to your health insurance company - this ensures prompt payment of those bills, and ensures that you are protected.
Health care providers are required, under Virginia law, to submit their bills to health insurance carriers if they are in-network (and most health plans do consider emergency treatment to be in-network). This includes those patients who have Medicare, Medicare Advantage Plans, and Medicaid. This is the law in Virginia: 8.10-27.5.
There are a lot of questions about this procedure, and we wrote an extensive article on that.
What if I Don’t Have Health Insurance?
If you don’t have health insurance, then the hospital and other healthcare providers may claim a lien in your case. A lien is a statutory reimbursement interest, coming out of your third-party liability case, such as your car accident case. This is permitted under Virginia law: 8.01-66.2.
However, the statute that authorizes liens only allows providers to demand a certain amount: $2,500 in the case of hospitals, $750 for physicians, and so on.
The lien amount does not act as a cap on the hospital’s recovery of its bill, however. Rather, they are only allowed to demand that amount from your case. They may still come after you for the balance, through collections. This is not a violation of Virginia’s balance billing laws.
Medical Bills and Collections
Unfortunately, many providers will send your bills to collections after they send you three or four bills in the mail. Many people attempt to forestall collections by arranging a payment plan with the healthcare provider. Some healthcare providers will, indeed, grant payment plans, or they will grant “self-pay discounts.” These discounts can be considerable - we have seen them as much as 50% of the total amount due!
If the hospital has agreed to a reduction, or a payment plan, and you are complying with that payment plan, then the hospital will not send your bill to collections, as you are now making payments pursuant to an agreement. It is vital to you, as a patient, to always get that agreement in writing!
Some healthcare providers will refuse to provide a written payment plan, but will accept whatever payments you can make. Those healthcare providers, including INOVA (the largest healthcare network in Northern Virginia), will then still send your balance to collections. Unfortunately, this is authorized under the law.
When the hospital or other healthcare provider has sent the debt to a collection agency, you can then attempt to set up a payment plan with that collection agency. They are often willing to work with you, provided you make the payments on time. Whether or not this will affect your credit score depends entirely on whether the collection agency reports the debt to credit bureau companies.
In the event that you do not negotiate with the collection company, or make payment plans, the collection company can file a lawsuit against you. If they obtain a judgment in that lawsuit, they can then “enforce” that judgment, which can include wage garnishments and seizure of certain financial assets, such as bank accounts.
If you are ever served with a lawsuit, you need to consult an attorney!
Forestalling Collections After a Car Accident
In order to avoid the nasty collections process after an accident, you can authorize your attorney to pay outstanding medical bills out of the proceeds of your case. This obviously reduces the amount of money that goes “into your pocket,” but at the same time, eliminates the risk of daily collection calls, lawsuits, and negative hits to your credit score.
Understand that attorneys will not pay your medical expenses out of your case unless you expressly authorize it, unless it is legally required (such as through the liens, discussed above), or you have previously authorized it in writing, such as through an “Assignment and Authorization” or “Letter of Protection.” These are contracts that you may have signed with a chiropractor or physical therapist to receive treatment, where they defer collecting on their bill, and you agree to pay them out of the proceeds of your case.
Get Help From an Attorney today!
Medical bills are just one of the many headaches that you have to deal with, after you have been hurt in a car accident that was not your fault. You shouldn’t have to deal with insurance companies blowing up your phone right alongside bill collectors. Speak to an experienced, aggressive car accident lawyer today who will help stop the calls, and fight for your rights to get you the compensation you deserve.
Call Blaszkow Legal today for a free consultation on all car accidents anywhere in Virginia, Maryland, and DC! 703-879-5910