A medical accident injury can be expensive. Even if you think the negligent doctor is responsible for paying for your medical malpractice injury, the bills will keep piling up in your name. You should do what you can to receive appropriate and proper care after a medical malpractice injury. If you need to see the doctor, get surgery, or need prescription medications, you may have to pay for your own medical care.
A medical malpractice award or settlement can pay for the costs of medical care. Your malpractice settlement can also cover your other expenses and losses, like lost wages or pain and suffering. However, a settlement can take weeks, months, or even years. Don’t wait around for the settlement to get the care you need.
Your experienced medical malpractice legal team can help you understand the process of a malpractice claim. They will answer your questions after a medical malpractice injury and help you recover money to pay for your care and other needs.
Cost of Medical Care After a Malpractice Injury
The costs of a medical malpractice injury can be astronomical. Even a temporary injury can require additional treatment, hospitalization, medication, and follow-up monitoring. Health care in the U.S. is more expensive than in any other developed country. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United States has the highest health spending per capita, at $10,948 per person. The next highest country is Switzerland, at $7,138 per person.
Medical Bills for Improper Care
Even though you were injured because of negligent medical care, the doctors and hospitals will still try and bill you for the care received. In most cases, even if the doctor knows they did something wrong, they won’t volunteer to pay your bills. You will generally have to make a demand or file a lawsuit before the negligent doctor or hospital will pay for your care.
Current Medical Care Needs
After the malpractice event, if you were injured, you may have to seek medical care. This could include returning to another doctor or hospital to get treatment, which could include costs and bills for:
- Medical devices
- In-home care
If the injuries are temporary, any treatment related to the medical injury can be considered part of your damages that you want to recover in a lawsuit. Until you have received all the necessary care, you may not know the total costs of your injuries. This is why it is important not to settle your case before you understand the severity of your injuries.
Future Medical Care
Some injuries can cause permanent damage or disability. If you end up losing a leg after an amputation complication related to an infection, you will have to deal with the loss of a limb for the rest of your life. This may require future medical care for as long as you are alive. Future medical care for serious conditions can even get more expensive as you get older or as the condition worsens. Thinking about the costs of paying for your own future care can be daunting. Costs may include:
- Medical appointments
- Regular check-ups
- Treatment for chronic pain
- Continuing surgeries
- Cosmetic surgery
- Dental care
- In-home care
- Nutritional counseling
- Family education
- Residential care facilities
- Occupational therapy
- Physical therapy
- Speech therapy
- Mental health care
- Mobility devices
- Adapting your home
- Retrofitting your vehicle
Other Costs of a Traumatic Injury
Just to put medical care costs into perspective, one of the most traumatic types of medical injuries are birth injuries. A mistake by the OB/GYN can cause permanent brain damage to an infant that will have to be cared for for the rest of their lives. The lifetime costs of a child suffering mental retardation after a birth injury could amount to $1.5 million.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the estimated the economic costs, which include medical care, associated with the following conditions, (taking into account inflation for the year 2022), would be:
- Mental retardation: $1,1,594,976
- Cerebral palsy: $1,448,691
- Hearing loss: $655,922
- Vision impairment: $890,292
Paying Bills After Losing Your Job
You may have other bills to pay after a medical malpractice accident. If you are unable to work or have to take time off to recover, it may be difficult to pay your bills, including utilities, credit card payments, and buying groceries.
If you were injured because of medical malpractice and unable to work, you can generally include loss of income in your damages claim. Loss of income can include loss of benefits. If you are facing a reduced future income because of an injury, future economic losses can be included in your damages.
Insurance to Pay Your Medical Bills
Most people who are injured because of medical malpractice have health insurance through their employer, from a state insurance program, or by paying for their own health insurance. If you have health insurance, your insurance company may pay for your medical bills related to the injury. However, if the insurance company finds out that someone else might be liable for your injuries, they will try and recover their expenses from the other party.
For example, in a car accident, your car insurance company may pay for your medical bills but if the other driver is insured and caused the accident, your insurance company will try and get the money from the other insurance company.
Similarly, if you are injured after a surgical malpractice accident, your health insurance company may pay for covered expenses. If you then try to sue the surgeon for malpractice, the health insurance company will want to be compensated for their expenses. Issues about insurance can be confusing because there are often multiple insurance companies involved in a medical malpractice lawsuit, including:
- Hospital’s insurance company
- Doctor’s insurance company
- Medical malpractice insurance companies
- Your own private health insurance
If you have insurance questions about who will pay for your medical bills after a malpractice injury, talk to your medical malpractice attorney. It is important that you don’t bear the costs of paying for medical care when the injuries were caused by someone else’s mistakes.
What Is Subrogation?
Subrogation is the term for when the health insurance company tries to recover costs from a malpractice award. If another insurance company, like your health insurance provider, pays for your medical bills, they will want to know if someone else is responsible for paying your expenses. In a medical malpractice lawsuit, if you recover money damages to pay for your medical expenses, your health care company may try to recover their costs through subrogation.
Medicare and Medicaid Coverage
If you lose your job after a medical malpractice injury, you may also lose your insurance. If you cannot afford insurance or are not eligible for other insurance options, your only option may be Medicaid or Medicare. These are government programs that pay for healthcare for eligible individuals, including those who are disabled after an injury or fall below a certain income level after losing their job.
For older people and low-income families, their medical care may come through Medicare or Medicaid. Medicare is a federal health insurance program for people who are 65 or older and for younger people with a disability. Medicaid is a state and federal program that provides healthcare coverage for low-income adults and children, elderly adults, and people with disabilities.
Like private insurance companies, Medicare may recover reimbursement after a medical malpractice injury settlement. Medicare has subrogation rights for any payment you receive as part of a medical malpractice lawsuit related to the care provided as a result of the accident. After you get a jury award or settlement, Medicare may attach a lien, which allows them to get paid back before you get the rest of your award.
What Happens If I Don’t Pay My Medical Bills?
Problems paying medical bills is a real concern in the U.S. According to a study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), “exorbitant medical bills in the United States play a huge part in personal bankruptcies, accounting for about 40% of the filings last year, according to a new study.”
In 1999, there were about half a million Americans filing for bankruptcy protection related to medical expense debt. Since then, the costs of medical care have continued to rise, at a rate faster than regular inflation. One medical malpractice injury can mean the difference between getting by and falling behind.
If you don’t pay your medical bills, the doctor, hospital, clinic, or insurance company will try and come after you to collect. The first thing to try is reviewing the bills. There may be some mistakes, duplicate charges, or incorrect information that makes the bill higher than what you owe. You can find errors by reviewing the medical bills along with explanations of benefits from the insurance company. You might also be able to compare your medical record with what was billed.
If you are having trouble paying your medical bills, you can try and contact the hospital or clinic to see if there are payment options. Depending on your financial situation, a hospital might try and work with you to:
- Set up a payment plan
- Waive a portion of the debt
- Negotiate payment options
- Get a discount for a downpayment
If you cannot negotiate or identify errors to reduce your expenses, your health care provider may assign your debt to a collection agency. Debt collectors will then try to collect the debt. Some debt collectors may even engage in unlawful tactics to try and get the money, like falsely claiming they are lawyers or making it sound like the debtor will be arrested.
The debt collector or healthcare provider can sue you in court for unpaid medical bills. If the court finds you are liable for the debt, they can get a judgment against you. A writ of execution or judgment may allow the creditor to levy your bank account, garnish your wages, and prevent you from selling certain property until the judgment is paid off.
Can I Send My Medical Bills to the Doctor Who Caused the Injury?
If you send your medical bills to the doctor or hospital responsible for the injury, they probably won’t get paid. Unless the hospital has already stated they will pay for the costs of your care after a malpractice injury, the bills will continue to be sent to you. Ignoring the issue won’t make the bills go away and you may be at risk of having legal action taken to collect the debt.
Don’t expect the medical industry to do the right thing until you hire a lawyer to try and recover your medical expenses. After a medical malpractice injury, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible. The sooner your attorney starts working for you, the sooner you can expect a settlement offer that will pay for your medical costs and other loss of income.
Medical Malpractice Attorneys and Settlement Strategies
Medical malpractice cases are complex and often take a long time before they are settled or go to trial. Serious injury cases often take years before they are resolved. This can leave you with years of medical payments before you finally get your money. Talk to your medical malpractice attorney about getting continuing care while you are going through your claim.
If you wait too long to file a medical malpractice claim, you may go past the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations is the time limit an injury victim has to initiate a medical malpractice claim in court. If you miss the statute of limitations window by even one day, you can lose out on recovering money.
A medical malpractice settlement can help you get compensation for your injuries, medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering. If you want to know how much your case might be worth or how long it will take to get your settlement, contact an experienced legal defense team for a case evaluation. Do not hesitate to contact Gilman & Bedigian today for a free consultation.