Injury & Disability Law Center - January 2020

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January 2020

Personal Injury, Social Security Disability, and Workers’ Compensation

My Doctor Won’t Treat Me After a Car Accident —NowWhat? 3 Steps to Take When Your Primary Care Physician Turns You Down

Every year, more than 3 million Americans are injured in car accidents. Many of those victims turn to their primary care physicians for treatment due to their comfort level with their own doctor but also to avoid the risk of potentially high hospital emergency room bills. An increasing number of those victims, however, are surprised to learn their primary care physicians may not treat them because the injuries were sustained in a car accident. I’d like to briefly address why some physicians will not treat accident victims, but more importantly, what to do if you find yourself in this situation. Federal law requires hospital emergency departments to treat individuals regardless of citizenship, legal status, insurance, or ability to pay (there are some exceptions). Doctors and other medical providers practicing outside of the hospital emergency department, however, are not subject to these laws and are thus free to choose which patients they wish to treat, or not treat, including accident victims. insurance and payment headaches for your doctor. Most doctors’ offices are set up to bill a patient’s health insurance. For accident-related injuries, however, other forms of payment are often involved, such as automobile insurance, medical payments, and others. Additionally, some doctors have found health insurers reject payment for accident-related treatment. For doctors, these factors can impact how they are paid, when they are paid, and even the amount they are paid for providing treatment. Given these unknowns, some doctors choose not to get involved and implement office-wide “no car accident” policies. Before you get too upset with your doctor, you must recognize car accidents can create

room because they will provide treatment to you. If it is not an emergency, here are some suggestions for finding a doctor to help you: Ask friends, family members, or coworkers if they have a doctor they recommend after an accident. You will be surprised how many others have had the same problem. So, try asking around. Also, search online, call local doctor offices, ask your insurance agent, check with walk-in clinics, or even ask your doctor for a recommendation. Don’t be afraid to get creative! Some medical providers and health insurers are now even offering telemedicine in which medical care can be delivered by live interactive videoconferencing with a physician through your smartphone — and oftentimes for much cheaper than a typical doctor examination. Try Googling “telemedicine providers” to learn more about telemedicine. The point is that there are options for obtaining medical treatment, but you have to be proactive. Here’s a bonus tip to help your chances of getting treatment: Offer to use your personal health insurance for payment. Some providers will treat you even if your injuries resulted from an accident, if they know you have health insurance.

Some doctors have other concerns as well. For instance, some accident-related injuries may fall outside your primary physician’s expertise such that they may not feel comfortable offering treatment. Similarly, some doctors don’t want to risk getting involved in litigation that could require extra time and paperwork. Ultimately, all you need to understand is that your doctor can legally choose not to treat accident victims, and that decision is NOT a personal attack against you. With that understanding, let’s focus on what to do if your doctor will not treat you. Here are three tips to help you.

1. Don’t delay. Be proactive in seeking necessary medical treatment.

The most important thing to do after an accident is to seek necessary medical treatment, and the sooner the better. Your health takes priority, so if your doctor won’t treat you, find one who will. That requires you to be proactive, so resist the urge to delay looking for another medical provider. Timing is critical to a good long-term outcome.

As a starting point, if it is an emergency, go to the closest hospital emergency

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