Arizona uses a fault-based, or “tort liability” system in which your medical bills will become part of your “damages” claim against the person who caused your accident. In the meantime, you will need to make arrangements to get your bills paid.
- There are several ways to handle your medical bills:
1. Other Insurance – If you are covered by an insurance policy that might pay these bills, I suggest that you use that insurance, in the following order:
a. Workers Compensation (if you were injured on the job)
b. Health insurance (including Medicare and/or Medicaid)
c. Medical Payments coverage under your own auto policy
Be aware that if any of these insurance carriers obtains knowledge that you are pursuing legal action against the person who caused the accident, they will almost certainly ask to be reimbursed for their payments from your settlement proceeds: this is called “subrogation.”
- Lien Agreement – Some doctors may be willing to enter into an agreement to be paid if and when you settle your case against the tortfeasor. If you have no other insurance, this may be the only way to avoid collection actions by these doctors. But be aware that the doctors will want to be paid in full when your case settles.
- Speak to Your Doctors – Ask them to hold your bills until you can settle your case. Very few doctors will do this – but some will. If they do, they usually assess some sort of finance charge for waiting for their bill to be paid.
- Pay Cash – Most doctors will accept a substantial reduction in their bills if they receive payment directly from their patient at the time of service. If you choose this route, please keep detailed records of all payments so we can seek reimbursement for you.
- Do Nothing – But understand that the doctors may turn you over to a collection agency, which could adversely affect your credit rating.
You may end up using a different approach with each provider. For example, your health insurer may pay your emergency room bill, but not cover chiropractic care, or one provider may offer a substantial discount for being paid cash, while another provider may not offer any cash discount but offer you a lien agreement.
Please consider each of these options carefully and feel free to call me with any questions.