Watch Out for This Hospital Billing Trap

May 17, 2014

If you have received medical treatment following a car accident, be careful what you sign.  Because of the misleading actions of certain hospitals, auto accident victims in Cleveland, Ohio and around the country have been forced to accept reduced compensation for their injuries just so the hospitals can line their pockets.

To better understand what is happening to motor vehicle accident victims, imagine that you have just been injured in a collision.  You are in shock and your mind is racing.  Following a tense ambulance ride, you finally arrive at the hospital where you are met not with immediate care but with a stack of forms to be filled out.  In pain and nervous about the effects of your accident (injuries, property damage, the possibility of missing work), you do your best to fill in the forms, giving them your personal and health insurance information.  And then, for some reason, you come to a form asking for automobile insurance information.  You are too concerned with your health to read the fine print, so you sign it and move on to the next form.  It will not be until weeks or months later that you realize what you have just signed away.

Increasingly, when hospitals present car accident victims with forms requesting auto insurance information, those forms include language that either allows the hospital to directly bill a liable automobile insurance provider or requires you to pay the hospital out of any car insurance settlement you receive as compensation for your injuries.  By signing these forms, you may be granting the hospitals the ability to take a larger share of your insurance settlement.

You typically expect your hospital to bill your health insurance carrier for any medical treatment, regardless of the reason you seek treatment.  But hospitals do not prefer to bill health insurance carriers because those insurance carriers usually have contracted to pay lower rates for any treatment provided by the hospital.  This means less money for the hospital.  If, however, the hospital can convince you to assign your right to receive compensation directly from an auto insurance carrier, the hospital can then bill your car insurance at a much higher rate than your health insurance.

This is bad for you in multiple ways.  First, it steals money from your available coverage limits.  Car insurance policies have policy limits—set amounts of money available to compensate a covered accident victim.  For example, a policy may have $100,000 limits.  If the hospital directly charges $70,000 for its services while it would have only charged $35,000 through your health insurance, there is now $35,000 less available to compensate you for the full extent of your injuries.

Second, by billing your car insurance rather than your health insurance, the hospital is effectively turning your months or years of health insurance premium payments into financial waste.  Health insurance premiums can cost hundreds or thousands a month, and you pay those premiums so that your health insurer will cover you when you are sick or injured.  But if hospitals are going to fool victims into not being able to rely on their health insurance, then the purchase of health insurance has not helped you at all.

It is not only at the point of intake that hospitals attempt to get you to sign away your rights.  Hospitals in the Cleveland area have begun having their lawyers send out letters requesting authorization to bill the responsible party’s automobile insurance carrier.  If you receive such a letter, you are not obligated to sign it and should not do so before speaking with an experienced car accident attorney.

Always be careful when signing hospital forms.  If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, you deserve to receive full compensation for your injuries.  Call the award-winning personal injury attorneys at Lowe Scott Fisher Co., LPA for a free consultation about your case.

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