How Do You Pay Medical Bills After a Car Accident in New Jersey?
Posted on: March 23, 2023
A car accident can happen at any time and completely change your life in an instant, particularly if you suffer injuries. Most car accidents, regardless of the severity, result in at least minor injuries. Following an accident you should always seek medical evaluation, even if you believe you were unhurt in the accident. Many internal injuries and head trauma do not present symptoms for hours or days but can be life-threatening if left untreated.
A car accident can also leave you with property damage, lost wages, and significant medical expenses that can leave a family financially struggling. However, between insurance coverage, state laws, and financial assistance programs, you have options on how to pay your medical expenses.
Understanding Personal Injury Protection (PIP) in New Jersey
New Jersey is a no-fault state and uses a “choice” insurance system, which allows insurance claims to be paid quicker, and requires drivers to carry personal injury protection (PIP). No-fault laws do not necessarily mean the other driver cannot be found at fault for the accident.
Under PIP, if you are injured in a car accident that either you or the other driver caused, your own auto insurance will pay for your injuries first. Key aspects of PIP coverage include:
- Mandatory in New Jersey for all drivers.
- Drivers must carry at least minimum coverage of $15,000 per person.
- Provides compensation for medical and other expenses.
- Paid regardless of fault.
- Quick reimbursement, typically within 30 to 60 days.
- Allows policyholders to purchase more than the required minimum coverage.
Coverage may be extended in situations where injuries are severe, such as traumatic brain injury, disfigurement, spinal cord injury, or injuries severe enough to require critical treatment at a trauma center or hospital immediately following the accident.
Using Private Health Insurance
In New Jersey, you can choose whether you prefer to use your health care insurance as your primary source of medical care for injuries caused by a car accident. If you do, then your health insurance will pay first and your auto insurance will provide secondary coverage. While this action may save money on auto insurance premiums, choosing your health insurance coverage as your primary source of medical care is not necessarily the best choice due to:
- Health insurance policies require you to pay deductibles, copayments, and co-insurance, when applicable, all of which may be higher out-of-pocket expenses than your auto insurance coverage.
- Your choice or medical provider is limited to only doctors under health insurance network, whereas PIP coverage has no network restrictions and pays for all medically necessary treatment.
- Using your health insurance to cover medical costs means you will be paying for mandatory PIP coverage that you will not be able to use, as you may never exhaust your health care insurance benefits.
Other Options for Paying Medical Bills After a Car Accident
You are not limited to your health insurance or auto insurance to cover the cost of medical bills. There are other options that may be available to you, such as medical liens, government assistance medical coverage, or possibly Workers’ Compensation.
A medical lien is a demand for repayment from your medical insurer to recover a portion of expenses paid for treatment of your injuries. The insurer covers certain medical expenses, but not all, and policyholders are typically responsible for the remaining balance, usually as a copay or direct bill. Once you have accepted a settlement offer, your insurer will assert a medical lien to recoup expenses they paid on your behalf before you receive your funds.
Medicaid pays for the recipient’s medical expenses at a greatly reduced rate, and, in contrast to using private health insurance, is typically better to utilize for your medical expenses following a car accident. Medicaid coverage begins immediately for treatment, hospitalization, ambulance service, medications, medical devices and more.
Medicaid is entitled to a portion of your settlement to recoup some expenses, however, hospitals bill Medicaid at significantly discounted costs. This means that less of your settlement will be garnished for Medicaid than liens enforced by private health insurance.
Most medical expenses are covered by Medicare, including some expenses not paid by your auto insurance. Generally, any medically necessary treatment is covered under both Part A and Part B Original Medicare, including:
- Physical and occupational therapy.
- Back, neck, arm, and leg braces.
- Prescription medication.
- Cosmetic surgery.
- X-rays and diagnostic imaging.
- Psychiatric care.
Workers’ Compensation pays for medical expenses, partial lost wages, and disability when you are injured at your workplace. The same may apply if you are injured in a car accident while working.
You are not required to prove who is responsible for the work accident, only that you were injured during course of employment, depending on the circumstances. You must be able to show that you were in a company or personal vehicle and acting on behalf of the employer or your job duties at the time of the accident. Travel to and from work, for example, is not considered “at work.”
Managing Out-of-Pocket Expenses After a Car Accident
Out-of-pocket expenses are items related to your injuries or ongoing medical care not always covered by insurance, such as:
- Prescription medications.
- Over-the-counter medications.
- Medical equipment, such as wheelchairs, respirators, and crutches.
- Hotel and boarding costs if medical treatment requires overnight stays out-of-town.
Costs that you incur while seeking medical treatment, such as transportation, are considered incidental expenses related to your case but not a significant part of your treatment. Incidental expenses may include:
- Rental car expenses.
- Mileage reimbursement.
- Parking fees.
- Cost of public transportation, such as bus, taxi, or rideshare fares.
Whether out-of-pocket or incidental, track all expenses and maintain all records and receipts in order to include with your claim for compensation.
Negotiating With Medical Providers
You may be able to negotiate medical bills with your health care provider, depending on your financial situation, insurance policy, where you live, and the health care company. Negotiation can take time, research, and you or your attorney’s tenacity for negotiating. Tips for a successful negotiation include:
- Request an itemized bill: An itemized bill provides a line-by-line detailed cost and associated codes of every item billed. Review for errors, such as duplicate charges or medication and services you did not receive.
- Explanation of benefits (EOB): You should receive an EOB from your insurance company, which you can compare to the itemized bill for discrepancies, such as unpaid items covered under your insurance policy.
- Financial assistance policies: Many hospitals, clinics, and health care providers offer financial assistance programs for low-income patients to receive discounted rates.
If none of the above apply, contact the health care provider regarding other options they may offer, such as waivers, hardship or relief programs, low or no interest payment plans, or discounted charges for a prompt or full downpayment.
Medical costs following an accident can be staggering, but there are many options to help alleviate some of the burden of having to pay on your own.
New Jersey Car Accident Lawyers at Ellis Law Help Injured Clients With Accident-Related Medical Bills
Medical expenses for car accident injuries can be financially devastating. If you have been injured in a crash, our New Jersey car accident lawyers at Ellis Law can help. Call us at 732-308-0200 or contact us online for a free, confidential consultation. Located in Freehold, New Jersey, we serve clients in Asbury Park, East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Long Branch, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, Monmouth County, Marlboro, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn and New York City.