First, no lawyer can pay your medical bills. This may seem obvious but the line is sometimes blurred in the case of consulting doctors who also afford treatment. For the purposes of this blog, it is sufficient to note that care that the doctor provides is treated as a regular medical bill. If the doctor must do chart reviews, draft reports or do research for the attorney, this is probably an expense the law firm must pay.
For more typical medical bills, we advise our clients to treat them as they would any other medical expense. If the patient/client has health insurance, the health insurance carrier should be billed. Be sure to tell your attorney about all types of coverage so that they can assist you with the maximum coordination of benefits. This would apply, for example, where there is Medicare, a Medicare supplemental provider and perhaps other health insurance carriers, AFLAC, etc.
Why is it so important to maximize the utilization of health insurance coverage? Quite simply, because as a general rule, any unpaid medical bills must be deducted from your eventual settlement. If you have failed to utilize your medical coverage in the best possible way, you may end up with a favorable gross settlement but when you see the “net” number, you might be disappointed.
Finally, our office always looks to see if our clients can benefit from “medical payments” or “med pay” coverage. This is sometimes known as “PIP” coverage in other states. Med pay is a form of no-fault health insurance coverage which essentially travels with your vehicle. If you or others in the vehicle are injured (regardless of fault), med pay may be available to contribute towards your medical bills.
To summarize, we have identified multiple sources of insurance coverage which may be available to pay your medical bills, and here is a somewhat radical notion: frequently these medical bills can be paid more than one time. Honest clients typically recoil at this notion: “Isn’t a double recovery immoral or even illegal?” The short answer is no. The law contemplates that people may, in fact, be covered by multiple insurance policies. Even insurance companies know and agree with this. Our clients have frequently purchased multiple optional coverage (or had them purchased for them by employers). The payment of so many separate insurance premiums justifies the “double or triple” recoveries. Put another way, why should the person that caused your injury benefit from the fact that you or your employer have been paying separate premiums for separate policies for so long? This is referred to in personal injury law as the “collateral source rule,” and in light of all of the facts, makes eminent sense.
To summarize, coordination of benefits in a personal injury case is crucial to a good outcome. A good personal injury attorney will take a proactive approach to discover all of the potential sources of coverage and to assure maximum utilization. If you retain us or another experienced personal injury firm, you should see that all of the coverages which apply have been thoroughly explored and utilized on your behalf for the best possible result.