Frequently Asked Questions - Who will Pay for the Hospital Bills if I have a Slip and Fall?
Slip and fall injuries occur suddenly, without warning, and can have devastating consequences. According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, unintentional falls are one of the leading causes of nonfatal injuries amongst all age groups. Serious slip and fall injuries frequently require a visit to the emergency room for evaluation and treatment. Unexpected trips to the emergency room can be a cause of significant financial distress. If you have incurred hospital bills due to a slip and fall injury caused by another person or entities negligence, there are several avenues to pursue to ensure the bills are paid.
It is common for individuals who sustain a slip and fall injury to avoid seeking medical attention from emergency room physicians or even a primary care doctor. The cost associated with obtaining proper medical care is a frequent excuse. Seeking proper medical care after suffering a slip and fall injury due to the negligence of another is very important for several reasons. First, a hospital is best equipped to rule out or properly treat potentially life-threatening injuries. Emergency room physicians prepared to handle traumatic injuries such as severe lacerations, broken bones or dislocated joints, and severe head injuries or concussions. Treatment in a hospital setting allows for X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or computerized tomography (CT) scans to be obtained in order to properly diagnose the extent of injuries to bones, disks, or ligaments. Hospital staff will also be able to provide referrals for follow up examinations from medical specialists or physical therapists based the severity of the injury.
Active health insurance is one way to pay for hospital bills due to a slip and fall injury. Health insurance information should be provided to the hospital staff during the initial visit if possible. If the visit will be covered by health insurance and if any deductible applies will vary according to the specific health insurance policy. If any payments are made out-of-pocket, however, it is important to preserve evidence of these out-of-pocket payments. Reimbursement of out-of-pocket payments can be pursued through a civil lawsuit. If a health insurance provider makes payments towards a hospital bill due to a slip and fall injury, they may assert a right of subrogation.
Hospital bills due to a slip and fall injury may also be paid through no-fault premises liability insurance coverage. Some businesses carry medical payments coverage on their insurance policy. No-fault medical payments coverage will pay for medical expenses that occur on the property regardless of who was at fault for the accident. An experienced slip and fall attorney can assist in determining if a business carries no-fault medical payments coverage to pay for outstanding hospital bills.
It may also be possible to defer payment of hospital bills if an attorney has been retained to represent the injured party. It is very common for slip and fall injury victims to be unable to pay the upfront costs associated with obtaining medical treatment. The negligent party, or their insurance carrier, often expects the injured party to pay the upfront costs of medical treatment regardless of his or her ability to pay. To ensure the injured party receives necessary medical care, an attorney can provide their client’s medical providers with a letter of protection (LOP). A letter of protection is a document that guarantees medical providers payment if they defer collection of the outstanding balance until after the resolution of the case.
Florida Bar Rule 4-1.8(e)(1) states, “a lawyer is prohibited from providing financial assistance to a client in connection with pending or contemplated litigation.” Due to the Florida Bar rules and attorney cannot provide a client with funds to pay for hospital bills or other medical treatment. Third party companies offer pre-settlement funding to provide a plaintiff access to funds prior to the resolution of his or her case. These loans can help ease financial burdens but will involve fees and interest payments. Pre-settlement funding can be used to pay hospital bills prior to the conclusion of a slip and fall claim but may not be the most efficient means of payment due to the costs associated with the loan.
Outstanding medical bills, including hospital bills, are included in the damages an attorney seeks to recover for their client. At the conclusion of a client’s medical treatment once the full extent of injuries and damages are known, the attorney will prepare a demand package. The demand package should outline the duty the defendant owed the plaintiff. The demand should then demonstrate how the defendant breached that duty. The demand letter should then illustrate how the defendant’s actions, or inaction, are the cause of the plaintiff’s injury. Finally, the demand will include a full list of the plaintiff’s damages including all hospital and medical bills that resulted from the slip and fall injury. The demand package is the first step towards settlement. Included in the demand package is a settlement offer that the attorney and the plaintiff believe adequately compensates the plaintiff for the slip and fall injury.
If settlement negotiations are not fruitful after the defendant receives a demand package, the plaintiff must file a civil lawsuit to pursue the damages. Hospital and other medical bills will be introduced as evidence to jury to aid them in calculating the plaintiff’s award for damages. It may take several months or years, however, before the civil lawsuit reaches a jury.
There are numerous options available to someone who sustains a slip and fall injury due to someone else’s negligence to pay for necessary medical treatment. Inability to immediately pay for hospital treatment should not deter a slip and fall victim from seeking necessary medical care. An experienced slip and fall attorney can assist by making sure hospital bills are paid by the appropriate third party whether it be an insurance carrier or the at fault party through settlement negotiations or a civil lawsuit. How a hospital bill will be paid, and how quickly, will vary according to the facts of each unique slip and fall case. An attorney will be able to provide counsel on the most efficient way to pay outstanding medicals bills with the least amount of financial burden to the injured party.