In many car accidents, injuries can occur that can cause bodily pain of various kinds. It is possible that the victim of the car accident seeks treatment at a chiropractor in an effort to obtain relief from their pain. As car accident lawyers, we’ve seen situations where these chiropractic bills can accumulate and introduce an expense that may not necessarily be included in the value of the claim. As a result, we wanted to put together a basic guide to chiropractors and what you should know about them if you are in a car accident.
Chiropractors Contact Accident Victims
Generally, after an accident, a chiropractor’s office will contact you and advise that you need chiropractic treatment. We almost never recommend seeking treatment from a chiropractor as opposed to a primary care physician. Chiropractors usually obtain the accident report you’re your car accident and then solicit you for their services. Often times you are hurt, don’t have a regular doctor and with no place to go for treatment, will schedule an appointment.
Once at the chiropractor’s office, you will usually be given several documents to review and sign. We strongly advise you speak with a car accident lawyer before you sign anything at a chiropractor’s office. One of those documents will likely be an “assignment of the settlement proceeds” you receive from the insurance company. This means you are signing away the rights to some or all of your settlement! Those settlement proceeds will go towards the payment of the chiropractic bill.
Chiropractors do this because generally the chiropractor’s bill is not covered by health insurance or Medicare/Medicaid. The chiropractor’s assignment seemingly protects the chiropractor’s bill. In essence, the chiropractor will wait to try to obtain payment from you until the case is settled. Unfortunately, this can lull victims into a false sense of security that they may not be billed or have to pay for the services. Sometimes the bill can reach thousands of dollars for repeated visits. If the case is never settled, the chiropractor can sue you for the bill but often times never pursues reimbursement from you.
Is This Assignment Enforceable?
In W. Broad Chiropractic v Am. Family Ins., 122 Ohio St. 3d 497, 2009-Ohio-3506. the Ohio Surpreme Court was asked to determine whether a chiropractic assignment was enforceable. Specifically, the court had to determine whether the injured party who does not file suit or obtain a judgment against the tortfeasor may assign her right to proceeds from a prospective settlement to the chiropractor in exchange for chiropractic care she received for her injuries.
After a detailed analysis the court held that a person who was injured in an accident but who has not yet established liability for the accident and a present right to settlement proceeds may not assign the right to future proceeds of the settlement if the right does not exist at the time of assignment. In addition, the court further held that RC 3929.06 precludes an assignee of prospective settlement proceeds from bringing a direct action against a third-party insurer after the insurer distributed the settlement proceeds.
In summary, if you sign a chiropractic assignment in all likely hood it would not be enforceable under the W Broad Chiropractic holding. That would only apply before the filing of a lawsuit.. It would not necessarily apply if your case were filed. In any event, you would still owe the bill and the chiropractor could sue you for the outstanding bill.
Should I Go to a Chiropractor if I’m in an Accident?
Most often, the answer is no. Instead, you should seek treatment at a primary care physician where possible. If that physician suggests chiropractic treatment, it may be a different story. In any event, if you are in a car accident in Ohio, call us immediately so we can help guide you on the correct path. Our number one priority is making sure you obtain the medical treatment you need. We have too often seen cases where the bills owed to the chiropractor’s significantly limits your ability to recover enough compensation from your accident in order to make sure your life can continue on with the least amount of disruption possible.