I am often asked how are medical bills treated when a person in the military is hurt off duty in a car accident that was someone else’s fault?
As anybody in a military family knows the treatment for active-duty personnel by the U.S. Government is without charge whether it is at Portland Naval Hospital or at the Boone Clinic or on board a ship. However, the at-fault driver and their insurance company in a car accident situation which injured a Navy person do not get off scot-free without having responsibility for medical bills even though the treatment is free to the sailor or soldier.
Rather as a personal injury attorney, I write to Naval Legal Services or the appropriate personnel with the government and get a kind of a bill called a Statement of Value which shows how much the government would seek to be paid back for the medical treatment provided from the at fault driver and their insurance company if there’s a successful recovery related to the car wreck which injured the military personnel. This statement of value is basically taken and used instead of a regular civilian bill to present to State Farm, GIECO, or Allstate just like a regular emergency room or surgeon’s bills would be outside of the military.
The service member does not have to pay back the government for the Statement of Value and the lien of the government unless there is a successful recovery from the insurance company or person who caused the injury. If there were no claim or if the claim didn’t result in money for the service member then the government would not have to be paid back.
To the extent that the services are required for a person in the Navy at a Hampton Roads private medical facility because the services were not available for whatever reason through the U.S. Government then the same basic system applies. Even though the government may have paid for the care through Tri-Care or some other system which normally wouldn’t cost anything to the injured person because they were active duty the amount the government had to pay to the civilian healthcare provider can be claimed in a personal injury case against the insurance company for the negligent driver who caused the accident.
In some circumstances when I’ve helped service members with personal injury cases during my 25-years in practice in the Norfolk area, there may be an election by the injured person to seek civilian care outside of the military which the government will not pay for for whatever reason. This typically occurs because they either deem it not necessary or that they would require the services to be provided at the military hospital or through the military medical system. Under such circumstances the service member is responsible for the civilian bill themselves but normally they only choose to do that after consultation with me because that’s what they prefer to do after some reassurance from me that I believe that I will be able to get that bill paid for through the personal injury case.
The issues surrounding car wrecks or motorcycle wrecks with injuries where the person got hurt is in the U.S. Armed Forces are part of what I do day-in-day-out. I am very familiar having practiced in this community with some of the Army, Navy and Marine folks as my clients that I know these rules like the back of my hand. If you were injured in a car wreck or any other kind of personal injury that is off base and doesn’t arise out of your service you should get a civilian attorney who’s familiar with how the system works to make sure that you get the medical care that you need, that you maximize the recovery that you get in your own pocket, and that you comply with all rules and regulations for paying back the government whatever it’s entitled to get out of your case. If you are in the military and are hurt in an accident due to no fault of your own we can help. Call Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers at 757.455.0077.