Over the last few months, an exceptional number of callers have told me that they received calls soon after their car accident and the insurance company was offering to pay their medical bills up to a certain dollar amount and then $500 on top of that. We have seen GEICO, Progressive and Nationwide doing this.
Why are they doing it?
Is it a good idea to accept the offer?
The insurance carriers are doing this because in the first few days after a crash, people often have no idea of the extent of an injury. Everyone expects to be sore after a bad crash, but we all assume that with some Ibuprofen and rest, we will be back on our feet in no time. Often that is true and in those cases a small early settlement without a lawyer makes good sense. But…
Do not make that decision until at least 30 days have elapsed since the crash.
To give your body time to heal and to take the time to recognize the difference between a real medical problem and a minor ache. You should go to the emergency room if it is severe or to urgent care if it is not. Follow up with your family doctor and keep an eye on things.
Insurance companies count on the fact that you will be out of sorts immediately after the crash and optimistic about the prospect of getting better. If you accept the offer of medical bill payment and $500, you are signing a contract and there are no backsies.
The offer to pay medical bills has a huge contingency clause that says that they will pay bills they “deem to be reasonable.” In other words, if they decide you should not have gone to the orthopedist, they will just refuse to pay it and you have no recourse. The settlement might as well just say “we will pay your medical bills if we feel like it.”
The car insurance companies are taking advantage of your natural optimism that the pain will go away. Let us hope that you are right, but let us not make hasty and foolish decisions that can have grave consequences. Take your time and wait the 30 days while getting as much or as little medical care as you deem appropriate.
Is it a Good Deal?
Sometimes it is. If you only go to the doctor once or twice after a crash and you heal up just fine, then payment of the medical bills plus $500 is perfectly fair. Don’t make a mountain out of a mole hill.
What Do I Do With the Medical Bills in the Meantime?
If you have health insurance, bill it to health insurance, otherwise you may end up in collections.
If you have medical payments insurance on your own car policy, you can bill the medical to them. This will not raise your rates.
If you have neither, you will have to come out of pocket for the medical care unfortunately. If you have a serious injury, then go see a lawyer immediately and explore your options on getting lien medical care with a quality doctor.