After an accident in Philadelphia, the people who were hurt in the incident deserve to be compensated when they were not the one who caused it. One of the biggest forms that this compensation takes is for a victim's medical expenses. Not only are these expenses way higher in Philadelphia than they are in the rest of the world, but many accident victims also suffer extensive injuries that require enormous amounts of medical attention. The medical bills that you or a loved one can be saddled with after an accident – whether it was a car accident, an instance of medical malpractice, or even just a dog bite – can be astronomical. Because they were not your fault and because there was very little that you could have done to avoid the situation, this can be very frustrating. The thought of having to pay for them out of your own pocket can seem very unfair.
The personal injury lawyers at the Philadelphia law office of Gilman & Bedigian know this, and strive to represent accident victims and their families both in the courtroom and outside of it. We fight to ensure that your medical expenses are covered by the person or people who caused the accident and your injuries.
Medical Expenses are Exorbitant in Philadelphia
Accident victims in Philadelphia are often faced with one of the most overlooked problems in America, today: The cost of medical care is incredibly high, especially when compared with the rest of the developed world.
The high price of healthcare in the United States in general, and in Philadelphia in particular, spans across all of the sectors in the medical field. An article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that everything from doctors' consultations to the price of prescription drugs to the administrative costs in hospitals was much higher in the U.S. than in similar countries in the world. Even the costs of identical surgical procedures cost far more in the United States. For example, in 2013, the average cost of a coronary artery bypass graft surgery was $36,509 in Switzerland and $15,742 in the Netherlands, but an astounding $75,345 in the United States.
These elevated costs are felt by accident victims from the beginning to the end. Everything from emergency care to the physical therapy necessary to make a full recovery can cost far more than one would expect, leading to repeated sticker-shock for innocent people who were only hurt because someone else made a mistake or acted negligently. The overwhelming amount you could be facing in medical expenses alone can make it clear that you need to pursue your rights to compensation in court in order to protect your financial well-being after an accident you did not cause.
Legal Damages and Medical Expenses in a Personal Injury Case
While these costs of your medical expenses are likely to be astronomical, though, they are recoverable in a personal injury case because they fall within the realm of the legal damages that Pennsylvania law recognizes. These legal damages include all of the ways that a victim has suffered from the accident. They aim to bring the victim back to where they were before the incident that changed their lives, preventing them from the unfair situation where they have to bear the costs of someone else's poor conduct.
Some of these legal damages are easily stated in a dollar amount. These are economic damages and include things like the costs of repairing or replacing the property damage you sustained in the accident to the wages you have lost while recovering from it. Other losses are non-economic damages and cover things that cannot easily be stated in a dollar amount, like how much pain you have forced to endure or how much you have missed life's enjoyments because of the accident.
One of the core pieces of your economic damages are the costs of the medical bills that you have accumulated while you recover from the accident, as well as what you are likely to have to pay in the future. Accident victims are often left surprised by the costs of their medical expenses – both by the high costs of expected expenses, as well as by the numerous different and unexpected forms that medical expenses take. For example, lots of people are shocked by how much prescription drugs cost, while very few people think of the costs of the psychotherapy that they will need years after the accident, to overcome the mental trauma that they have been put through.
Understanding the high costs and the sheer variety of the medical expenses that you are likely to face can help you make an educated decision about whether to take your case and invoke your rights to compensation.
In the immediate aftermath of an accident – whether it is a motor vehicle crash, dog bite, or a slip and fall incident – you are likely to need immediate medical care. Because of the instant and unforeseen need of medical attention, the cost of emergency care is often exorbitant.
This emergency care includes a wide variety of medical expenses. These include:
- On-site care by emergency medical technicians
- Ambulatory services to a hospital or urgent care facility
- Emergency room bills
- Intensive care unit bills
- Wound cleaning and sterilizing
- Suturing or stitching open wounds and lacerations
- Emergency medication, like a tetanus shot or rabies injection
Infamously, each and every one of these expenses can quickly go over a thousand dollars. The costs of riding in an ambulance to the hospital – regardless of whether it includes basic or advanced life support services, en route – can alone top $3,000 in medical expenses. In major cities like Philadelphia, where the costs of living and therefore healthcare are higher than elsewhere, those costs can go even higher.
Ambulatory services are only the beginning, though. There are thousands of reports and news stories of absurd medical expenses at the hospital for basic healthcare and other medical services. Reports by Vox have found instances of emergency room patients being charged thousands of dollars for an ice pack. Some patients faced four-figure bills even though they refused treatment: They were charged simply for sitting in the waiting room for hours while they waited for attention.
People who are rushed to the emergency room and who actually receive extensive treatment are almost guaranteed to face medical bills that are exponentially more expensive.
Unfortunately, emergency treatment is only the beginning of an accident victim's road to recovery. In many cases, emergency care literally stops the bleeding so that the true healing can begin.
This often begins with a doctor's consultation where your medical condition can be diagnosed and a recovery plan determined. In some cases, this consultation happens immediately following your emergency care and occurs in the hospital during your initial visit. In other cases, this consultation happens days or even weeks after the initial accident.
Regardless of when the doctor's appointment happens, the medical expenses associated with seeing a doctor include the doctor's time, administrative costs, and the costs of receiving a diagnostic test. Each one of these expenses can be inflated.
The International Federation of Health Plans conducted a survey in 2015 that focused on the costs of healthcare in the developed world. Part of this survey dealt with the costs of certain diagnostic tests. What the survey found was that many of these tests, even though they are identical in different countries, are much more expensive in the United States than they are elsewhere.
One particular diagnostic test that the survey covered was an abdominal CT scan. In the U.S., this test costs an average of $844, nearly in line with the cost of the test in the United Kingdom. However, compared to the rest of the world, this was an astronomical price: The country with the next-most-expensive price for an abdominal CT scan in the report was Australia, where it only cost an average of $483.
Worse, these were just the average costs for the procedure in the country. In the U.S., the price for an abdominal CT scan varied widely. In the most expensive 20th percentile, the cost reached $2,364, nearly three times higher than the national average in the U.S.
But the high costs of diagnostic tests are not even confined to those that are medically necessary. In many cases, doctors send patients for extraneous tests that solve nothing or that are meant to eliminate a medical possibility that could only be described as incredibly remote. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, approximately a quarter of all diagnostic tests that were performed by doctors were not even medically necessary, even when the people being asked were the doctors that were performing them.
For accident victims in Philadelphia, the exorbitant and unnecessary costs of doctors' consults and diagnostic tests only makes their plight worse, increasing the need for a personal injury lawsuit to recover the medical costs of their recovery.
Surgeries: Another Huge Medical Expense in Philadelphia
Many accident victims in Philadelphia need surgical procedures of some sort to recover from the medical conditions that they have sustained through the other person's negligence. Whether to fix a broken bone or to minimize the repercussions of a severe neck injury, surgeries are a common element of a victim's road to recovery.
While the costs of a surgery are often the first thing that you thought of when you initially considered the medical expenses you have accumulated from an accident, once again, the costs of the typical surgery in the U.S. often far outpace what people think is possible. The misconceptions surrounding the costs of even the most common surgeries can prevent accident victims in Philadelphia from making educated and well-informed decisions about whether to pursue their rights to compensation in court.
Another part of the 2015 report by the International Federation of Health Plans investigated the costs of identical surgical procedures in different countries in the developed world. Just like when it came to the costs of identical diagnostic tests, on average it was far more expensive to have a surgical procedure done in the United States than in nearly all of the other countries in the report. In the worst cases, the cost of a given procedure was several times more expensive in America.
One example in the report was a hip replacement procedure – a common surgery that is done hundreds of times every year in the Philadelphia area, often after a motorcycle accident. On average, this surgery cost $29,067 in America, making it the most expensive country in the world to get a hip replacement. Australia was the country with the second-highest cost for the procedure where it was only $19,484. Worse, the most expensive five percent of hip replacement surgeries in the U.S. was nearly double the average price, nationally, costing $57,225 for the procedure.
The Hidden Cost of Medical Supplies
Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of recovering from an accident is the medical expenses related to necessary medical supplies. Many accident victims in Philadelphia focus on the doctors' visits and the surgical procedures and forget about the hidden costs of:
- Physical therapy equipment
After some of the most severe injuries that you can suffer in an accident, these expenses can be quite significant. Keeping the costs down by choosing, for example, a less advanced prosthetic for a lost limb can drastically reduce the quality of life you can expect after the incident.
Perhaps the most extremely inflated medical cost that accident victims have to deal with in Philadelphia is the price tag on prescription drugs. Despite the political attention that prescription drug prices have gotten in recent years, they still remain incredibly high and show no signs of decreasing to the levels one would expect them to be.
Once again, the 2015 report by the International Federation of Health Plans provided a valuable insight into the costs of prescription drugs in the United States compared to the rest of the developed world. Once again, that insight is that the United States is a terrible place to need prescription drugs because they are so much more expensive there than they are elsewhere.
Three examples show how extreme this discrepancy can be in the U.S. and highlight how much an accident victim can accumulate in medical expenses.
The first example is the common painkiller, OxyContin. While no other country reported average costs over $100, in the International Federation of Health Plans' report a typical dose cost an average of $265 in the U.S..
Xarelto, a blood clotting drug, showed a similar discrepancy. While it cost around $100 per dose in other parts of the world, an identical dose cost an average of $292 in the U.S..
Finally, there is Tecfidera, an advanced drug used to treat relapsing multiple sclerosis. In the U.S., the average dosage cost $5,089, the highest price in the developed world. The second-highest price for an identical dose was in Switzerland, where it cost only $1,855.
Inflated drug prices like these are especially difficult for accident victims to swallow as they got hurt through no fault of their own and were merely in the wrong place at the wrong time. Recovering compensation for these high medical expenses becomes even more important.
Occupational Therapy for Severe Injuries
Victims in the worst kinds of accidents find that the injuries that they suffered end up preventing them from doing even the most basic things in life. Some victims, particularly those who suffered nerve damage or a traumatic brain injury, have difficulty walking, moving their limbs, or even swallowing.
After receiving emergency care and undergoing all of the necessary surgical procedures and doctors' appointments, occupational therapy is often the next step on a victim's road to recovery. Occupational therapy, often reserved for only the most devastating injuries, is the process of “relearning” some of the basic skills and movements that are now made difficult by the severity of the injuries you suffered in the accident.
Unfortunately, the medical expenses related to occupational therapy is something that many people overlook when they are estimating their medical expenses after an accident. For many, the road to recovery is supposed to end at the discharge from the hospital. However, it can extend for years afterward as you struggle to perform the same basic bodily functions that you were able to do before the terrible incident that changed your life.
After occupational therapy – or after the necessary surgical procedures – there is still physical therapy. While occupational therapy aims to reacclimatize you to life's daily tasks and help you relearn basic skills, physical therapy aims to bring your strength and mobility back to what they once were. While it is often focused on strength-building exercises that deal exclusively with the muscles and body parts that were most damaged in the accident, physical therapy can still take months or even years to complete, depending on the nature and severity of your injuries.
Like with occupational therapy, though, accident victims rarely think of the costs of physical therapy when they try to total their medical expenses. Without including these costs – which can easily run into the thousands of dollars, especially to rehabilitate severe injuries or to bring someone with an athletic lifestyle close to the point they were before the accident – it can be more difficult to recognize the full extent of your losses from the accident. This, in turn, makes it impossible to make an informed decision about whether to pursue a personal injury claim for compensation.
Psychotherapy and Counseling
Finally, the mental and emotional scarring that an accident can put on an innocent victim should not be underestimated. In many of the most disturbing accidents, the sights and sounds of the incident can be the most traumatizing aspect of the whole ordeal. Victims of emotional distress can even develop post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, as mundane objects or experiences trigger unbidden the memories of the accident and drastically reducing your quality of life. Recovering from the mental anguish of an accident can even take longer than recovering from the pain and the other physical injuries that you suffered at the hands of someone else's negligence.
The costs of seeing a counselor or therapist can accumulate rapidly. Unfortunately, the results of psychotherapy are not like those of occupational or physical therapy: Rather than being slow and gradual, progress in therapy sessions is more likely to come in fits and jumps, interspersed with periods of seeming stagnation. As a result, the medical expenses for psychotherapy can increase even while no progress is being made. In some cases, patients jump from one therapist to another without making much progress, increasing their expenses while leading only to frustration.
Just because psychotherapy is a different kind of treatment for your injuries, though, does not mean that it is a necessary part of your recovery process. Many victims find that seeing a therapist is the most rewarding part of their post-accident treatment and that overcoming the mental and emotional obstacles thrown in their way from the incident was the most important part of their recovery.
Gilman & Bedigian: Personal Injury Lawyers Serving Philadelphia
The personal injury lawyers at the Philadelphia law office of Gilman & Bedigian know that going to court is not something that many people want to do. However, after a serious accident in the Philadelphia area, the high costs of medical expenses make it difficult to overcome the financial toll of an accident. When that accident was not your fault and there was little you could have done to avoid it, there is no reason why you should bear its costs, on your own.
Filing a personal injury lawsuit is nothing more than making a formal claim for the compensation that you are entitled to receive, from the person who should have to pay it. Contact us online to get started on your case and recover the reimbursement you need to pay your medical expenses.