If you’re injured in a car accident, your only thought should be getting proper medical care; next, your energy should be focused entirely on recovering from your injury. How you’re going to pay for medical care should be the last thing on your mind, but that’s exactly what one Kansas City woman was put through after she was hit by another driver.
Back in June 2011, Donnice Jackson was driving home from shopping with her granddaughter when two vehicles collided near her car at a Kansas City intersection. The collision propelled one of the vehicles into Jackson’s car, leaving the 61-year-old grandmother with back and neck injuries. The vehicle that hit her then sped away, making it impossible for her to write down the license plate.
Jackson was transported to Research Medical Center, where she assumed her Blue Cross Blue Shield health insurance would cover the cost of treatment. Since the ambulance and the emergency room physician filed a claim with her insurer, she expected the hospital to do the same. She was even told by the hospital staff to rest assured that her claim would be processed, so imagine her shock when, a couple of months later, she received a medical bill for just over $7,000.
The hospital later lowered the bill to $2,153 after classifying Jackson’s case as “indigent,” but the cost was still too much of a setback for Jackson, who was earning about $30,000 a year as a full-time administrative assistant. Debt collectors began calling her as often as twice a day, and in 2013, Research Medical Center actually sued Jackson to get the money they claimed she owed. In court, they said that Jackson owed them for services “provided at a reasonable price.”
But Jackson is not giving up without a fight. She recently retained attorneys with experience in this type of cases and filed a counterclaim in March 2014. She is optimistic that justice will eventually be served, even though she’s been fighting an uphill battle so far.
Jackson’s Case Is Not Unprecedented
Jackson’s case would be bad enough if it was an isolated incident at one hospital, but sadly, this isn’t the first time this kind of thing has happened. Another Kansas City hospital, St. Luke’s, agreed to a settlement after it came to light that they had refused to accept the health insurance of 930 car accident victims over the course of several years. As part of their settlement, which is worth about $3.5 million plus attorney fees, St. Luke’s will either stop trying to collect payment or provide partial compensation for the accident victims.
It seems astounding that these hospitals would refuse to accept patients’ health insurance to ensure the treatment they need, but the move was a calculated one aimed at supporting the medical facilities’ bottom lines. Hospitals often get discounted payments from health insurance providers, and they’re able to get more money if they go after car accident settlements. If there is no car accident settlement, as in Jackson’s case, the hospital may decide to directly bill the accident victim instead.
Florida Has Its Own Hospital Payment Pitfalls
It’s not just car accident victims in Kansas City who have found themselves facing unexpected hospital payments. Many Floridians have also encountered obstacles due to personal injury protection laws. Drivers in our state are required to have PIP insurance, and recent changes to the law are designed to keep premiums down by minimizing fraudulent claims. However, the new PIP laws also leave injured parties only 14 days to file a claim and do not cover treatment in certain health care fields, such as acupuncture or massage therapy. Also, if injury victims wait too long to file a claim or seek treatment from a health care provider who is not specifically covered under PIP, they may find themselves footing the bill themselves.
It’s outrageous to expect someone who has been injured through no fault of their own to cover the entire cost of their treatment. For many of these accident victims, paying out of pocket isn’t even a possibility—the cost of treatment is too much of a financial setback based on their annual income.
That is why it’s imperative that anyone in this type of situation seeks the legal assistance of an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible. You have a right to compensation, and if you don’t fight back, you’ll probably just continue to be hounded by debt collectors.
About the Author
Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Lawlor Winston White & Murphey. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, and was recently voted by his peers as a Florida “SuperLawyer”—an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state—and to Florida Trend’s “Legal Elite.” His experience in successfully handling numerous cruise ship accident cases recommends him as one of the most competent and skilled lawyer in the area of maritime personal injury law and wrongful death.