Screech!!!  Boom!!  Crash!!

You sit there stunned.  You didn’t even know it had deployed but there is an acrid smell of dust in the air and your airbag is hanging off your steering wheel like a limp bag.  You don’t realize it but your adrenaline is pumping and you may be going into shock … or shaking … or just wondering what the heck just happened?

You go to the emergency room.  They take a few x-rays, possibly some CT scans, and send you home with instructions to fill some prescriptions and see your family physician if you experience x, y, or z in the next few days.

The next morning you can barely get out of bed.  You hurt everywhere — your head, your ears, your neck, your back, your legs, your toes.  You’ve got pain in x, y, and z and some places they didn’t mention at the E.R.  Maybe in some places you didn’t even know you had …

So you call your family doctor, someone you’ve gone to for years, and tell them you need an appointment.  Their response?  “We don’t treat liability accidents.”  That’s right, your family doctor will not see you because you have been hurt by someone else.  Fact is, they don’t want to deal with the lawyers, the liability insurance companies, the health insurance subrogation (repayment) issues, and all the stuff that goes along with medical care after a wreck or other injury.

Often, the E.R. will have recommended that you go to an “Accident Treatment” place, or an orthopedic surgeon, if your symptoms persist.  But how do you choose an orthopedic surgeon?  How do you know one of these doctors’ offices that advertises for accident victims is a good place to get treatment?  And how to you find a medical provider if you don’t have health insurance?

Medical Liens

If a physician or hospital provides you medical care in a liability case, they can file a medical lien.  The lien requires an insurance company paying a claim to put the medical provider on the check.  The medical lien overrides your right to compensation, but it also provides you access to medical care because the provider knows it will get paid if you recover compensation.  Many providers prefer this to taking your health insurance.  If they recover on their lien out of your settlement, they get paid all or almost all of their charges.  If they accept your medical insurance, they are limited to provider contracts which limit their reimbursement typically to less than half of their retail charges.

Adequacy of Insurance

Before medical providers will treat you, they usually want to know that they are going to get paid.  An exception is the University of Oklahoma Medical Center, which is a trauma center but is also a state hospital required to extend medical care to patients that could not obtain it elsewhere.  Sources of recovery, other than your health insurance, are the liability insurance of the person or company that hurt you; your own medical payments coverage, and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.  Providers contact liability companies and inquire whether they are “accepting liability”.  If they do not, and if you do not have health insurance, med-pay, or UM, you are going to have a VERY difficult time obtaining adequate medical care.

Accident Treatment Centers

You have seen ads for medical providers who cater to injury victims.  Broadway Clinic.  Brooks Clinic.  Accident Care and Treatment Center.  In my experience they provide very good care to people with soft tissue injuries, like whiplash.  They usually have a combination of physical therapy and chiropractic care which is very effective, but also expensive.  Liability insurance adjusters think these clinics overcharge, and discount a lot of their bills.  Also, they will not take your health insurance, because they would rather recover on their medical lien.  But the most important thing is to get medical care and get well.

Attorney Referrals

Your lawyer can often assist you in obtaining good medical care.  At Foshee & Yaffe, we have excellent relationships with first-rate physicians in many fields, including orthopedics, neurology, neurosurgery, and physical therapy.  We never encourage you to “run up” medical bills; in fact, that is counter-productive.  On the other hand, we want to help you get complete diagnoses of all of your injuries, and get therapy to help you get better.  If your lawyer can help you get good medical care, either on a “lien basis” or using your health insurance, you are likely going to get better compensation as well as a better physical outcome. 

As I always say to my clients, and I mean it, I would rather you not have a “good case”, because if it’s that good it means you were hurt really badly.  We prefer you to get better, but also to document and prove all of your injuries in a way that gives you more compensation for what somebody else did to you.