You might have heard that after an auto accident or personal injury in Nebraska, the at-fault party has a legal obligation to pay for your medical bills and any other damages you incur.
That’s true. But it doesn’t mean the at-fault party will pay those bills right away.
On the contrary, you probably won’t see a single cent from the defendant until after the negotiation and settlement process concludes (or until a verdict, if your claim goes to trial). Depending on the circumstances, that process can take months or sometimes over a year.
Your doctors, hospitals, and medical providers probably won’t want to wait that long. They’ll start sending out bills within weeks of treatment, followed shortly by past-due notices and calls from debt collectors.
So how do you pay for your medical bills in the meantime? And once your claim resolves, do you have to pay your medical bills from a personal injury settlement?
There is a lot of confusion and miscommunication about how personal injury victims can cover their medical bills after an accident.
The rules differ from state to state. It’s critical that you work with accurate information. Below, we provide an overview of the issue specific to personal injury victims in Nebraska.
First, Know Your Options for Paying Medical Bills After an Accident
If you have accident-related medical bills due before your accident claim resolves, you may have several different options for covering those bills in the meantime. These options might include:
Medical Payments Coverage (“Med-Pay”)
Your car insurance company probably offers a special coverage option called Medical Payments Coverage (or “Med-Pay”).
If you have Med-Pay coverage, it will cover your medical costs upfront (up to your Med-Pay policy limits, which typically range from $5,000 to $20,000, depending on the policy).
Don’t have Med-Pay coverage? It may be too late to add it for an accident that has already happened, but we urge our readers to consider adding Med-Pay coverage as soon as possible to assist with any future accidents. It is often available for just a few dollars more a month.
If you do already have Med-Pay coverage, it will be your option of first resort for paying medical bills after an accident.
Your Health Insurance
Assuming you have health insurance, that policy will cover most of your medical costs for the time being. (If you also have Med-Pay coverage, it’s generally a good idea to submit your bills to Med-Pay first and then rely on health insurance once Med-Pay limits are exhausted.)
Contingency Arrangements / Letter of Protection
As personal injury lawyers for Sarpy County and Omaha, we are often able to make arrangements with medical providers that will delay any collections actions until after your claim resolves.
There are a few ways this might be arranged. One option is to enter into a contingency arrangement with the medical provider, in which the doctor or clinic will agree not to bill you until your case resolves. We may be able to help you find a care provider within your area of need who offers contingency arrangements.
Alternatively, at Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf & Lathrop, P.C., if a client does not have health insurance or Med-Pay coverage, we are sometimes able to send a Letter of Protection to the medical provider instead.
This letter promises the medical provider that our law firm will pay their medical bills using whatever settlement or verdict funds we ultimately recover in your case. In exchange, the medical provider agrees to put their billing “on pause” until your claim resolves, without referring your account to collections.
Health care providers are not required to agree to our Letter of Protection. However, in our experience, many of them do. Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf & Lathrop, P.C. has a reputation for integrity and a long record of consistently following through on our Letters of Protection without exception. We stand by our word and uphold the highest standards of attorney ethics.
Private Payment or Loans
If none of these sources of payment are an option in your situation, you may have to resort to paying for your medical bills out-of-pocket until your claim resolves. The advantage to this approach is that you won’t have to reimburse anyone after receiving any settlement or verdict funds (more on that in the next section).
If you don’t have enough in savings to cover the bills, there are various private loan options available, including loans designed specifically with personal injury victims in mind.
Not sure which strategy is right for you? As personal injury lawyers for Sarpy County and Omaha, Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf & Lathrop, P.C. is here to help. Contact our office and schedule a free consultation to talk about your options and figure out your best next steps.
Reimbursing the Health Insurance Company: Do You Have to Pay Your Medical Bills from a Personal Injury Settlement?
If your health insurance company covers your medical bills after the accident, you will likely have to reimburse the health insurance provider using any settlement or verdict funds you might receive once the case resolves.
Similarly, if your auto insurance company covers your medical bills under a Med-Pay policy, you might have to reimburse them for those Med-Pay payments (depending on the terms of your policy).
This requirement for reimbursement is called subrogation.
Your lawyer can help you understand in advance how much of your personal injury settlement or verdict might have to be paid back in subrogation. It might not be as much as you think.
When health insurance companies pay doctors or hospitals, for example, they typically negotiate the bill and only pay an “adjusted” (i.e. reduced) balance. The adjusted bill is often substantially lower than the original bill you got in the mail.
In that case, you are only obligated to reimburse the amount of money the health insurance company actually paid on your behalf — not the full amount on the original bill.
As personal injury lawyers for Sarpy County and Omaha, we help our clients understand their subrogation obligations and work directly with the insurance companies to protect our clients for reimbursing more than is required.
Note: some states have enacted anti-subrogation statutes that let personal injury victims off the hook from reimbursing their health insurance company after a settlement or verdict. Unfortunately, Nebraska is not one of those states.
Don’t Make Assumptions. Talk with a Personal Injury Lawyer
Do you have to pay your medical bills from a personal injury settlement? In many cases, the answer is yes, but the reimbursement amount might not be as high as you expect.
The insurance claims process is complex, so it is important that you proceed carefully.
We encourage you to talk to an attorney before signing any forms or paying any bills.
Make you sure you fully understand your rights, options, and obligations. Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf & Lathrop, P.C. is here to help.
Talk to Our Personal Injury Lawyers for Sarpy County & Omaha, Nebraska
Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf & Lathrop, P.C. is a Nebraska personal injury law firm with many years of experience and a long record of success. We are committed to giving our clients the time, attention, passion, and communication they deserve.
We are proud to offer confidential, cost-free, no-obligation case reviews for personal injury victims in Omaha, Sarpy County, and throughout Nebraska.
Consultations are available in person or over the phone. If you can’t come to us, we may be able to come to you.
We handle personal injury claims on a contingency fee basis, which means if you hire us, we will not charge you a fee unless and until we recover compensation for you.
Our firm fights for maximize compensation, including pain and suffering compensation, whenever and wherever we can.
To talk with a Sarpy County & Omaha personal injury lawyer about your legal options, contact Hauptman, O’Brien, Wolf & Lathrop, P.C. today.