If you or a family member are injured in an accident and do not have health insurance, you may be concerned as to who will ultimately be responsible for your medical bills. However, immediately after suffering the accident or injury, your main concern is getting the medical treatment that you need in order to prevent additional injury and to assist in minimizing the pain and suffering. Without medical insurance, where do you turn?
Fortunately, in the State of New Jersey, this question is easily answered with respect to motor vehicle accidents. Because New Jersey is a “no-fault” automobile insurance state, it is typically quite easy to obtain medical benefits for injuries sustained in a car accident even if you do not have health insurance or medical insurance. If you own a car and have automobile insurance, your own automobile insurance carrier will be responsible for your medical bills for any injury sustained in a car accident (subject to co-pays and deductible which are contained within your policy). Even if you do not own a car and do not have your own car insurance, you would typically be entitled to receive medical benefits from the insurance policy covering the vehicle in which you were a passenger. While there are several exceptions to this rule, the availability of medical insurance for those injured in motor vehicle accidents is generally straightforward.
Other types of personal injuries, however, are not as straightforward. Typically, as it relates to slips and falls or trips and falls or any other personal injury occurring as a result of a dangerous condition occurring on real property, it is quite possible that the owner of that land has a policy of insurance that contains a “medical pay” provision. Typically, these medical pay provisions will provide somewhere between $5000 and $10,000 in medical coverage for injuries sustained on the covered property. Many people, however, are not aware of this and never ask or approach the insurance company for the landowner if such coverage exists. Of course, the landowner and its insurance company do not advertise the existence of this medical pay coverage to an injured party, especially when they are not asked about same. Accordingly, once an injury is documented and medical treatment is provided, these medical pay policies typically provide payment of the outstanding medical bills.
Despite all of the above, it is sometimes the case that no automobile insurance or medical pay coverage exists. In situations where no medical coverage exists and the injured party does not have their own health insurance policy, appropriate arrangements must be made to “deal with” the outstanding medical bills. As can be imagined, doctors do not want to treat a patient unless they know they are going to be paid for their services. Thus, injured individuals may have a couple of options under this scenario.
First, they may attempt to seek treatment at a local hospital which provides “charity care.” Oftentimes, hospitals will provide a certain amount of charity care to the community during the course of a year. Such charity care includes not only emergency room visits but also visits within a clinic. Importantly, such clinics utilize attending physicians from the local area and the treatment is typically as good as treating privately. Another option may be to ask a physician to provide treatment in exchange for a “letter of protection.” A letter of protection is a letter given by an attorney to a doctor or health care practice basically guaranteeing payment of any outstanding medical bills out of the settlement proceeds of a personal injury case. Of course, each doctor and healthcare practice may have different procedures and protocols with respect to letters of protection and typically want to know that the proceeds of personal injury case will be sufficient to cover the cost of the medical treatment. Many of these doctors will rely upon the attorneys they work with for an opinion as to the potential of any personal injury case.
Should you find yourself in a position where you have been injured as a result of someone else’s negligence and do not have health insurance to pay your medical bills, please feel free to contact us so that we may attempt to guide you in the right direction and get you the needed medical treatment as soon as possible.