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  • Writer's pictureDr. Valerie Girard

A Chiropractors View of Auto Insurance: Dealing with injuries from an auto accident such as whiplash

Updated: Mar 24, 2020

Someday, due to careless drivers, weather conditions or a distraction, you may be in an auto accident. Should this happen, regardless of the severity of the accident or the damage to your car, it is always in your best interest to get a check-up from a chiropractor. In most car accidents, drivers experience some form of whiplash to the cervical spine. Even if you do not manifest symptoms immediately, the incident may produce changes in your body that will need to be addressed. These changes may occur in the spine, the muscles and other joint structures such as the shoulders, the jaw or lower extremities.

A mild to moderate whiplash of the neck can affect the function of other parts of the body. Headaches, tinnitus, dizziness, jaw pain and tightness, alterations in concentration, neck pain, insomnia, low back pain are just some of the symptoms associated with whiplash. Bladder infections have also been linked to whiplash as well as inability to heal from other health issues. Anyone who has suffered from a moderate to severe whiplash with tell you that it requires therapy of some nature to resolve in a timely manner.

In addition, whiplash can cause structural changes, particularly in the neck that will lead to arthritic changes and disc disease as one ages. This is well visualized on X-ray as the cervical spinal column loses in normal curve, now appearing as a straight column. In particular, the front of the spine will now form osteophytes or spurs and can lead to aberrant cervical mechanics. Compressed cervical discs, left untreated, may lead to disc bulges, which can cause a variety of painful neuropathies. These neuropathies can travel down the arm, caused severe pain and numbness of the fingers and hands.

Doesn’t sound good, does it? The good news? Whiplash can be successfully treated with chiropractic manipulation, soft tissues therapy, laser, therapeutic exercises and supplementation. Chiropractors are notably the whiplash experts and have developed hands on strategies for the treatment of a variety of injuries that may result from auto accidents.

The vector of injury, the speed of the cars involved and what other non-moving objects were involved in the accident determines the severity of the injury and the need for treatment. When a moving automobile hits another object, the forces exerted on something as sensitive as a human body can result in injuries that may require a series of treatments. This can be an expense that the injured party is not prepared to incur. Many practices are reluctant to wait until the case settles as it can take years and result in non- payment for the practitioner.

More good news! Your insurance company most likely offers an inexpensive solution. The name of the coverage is called Medical Payments or Med Pay and may add little to no cost to your policy. It is the most inexpensive medical available. Costco, for instance, offers $5000 medical payments for each injured person at no additional cost to their executive membership. Additional amounts are available for a small premium. (Getting an executive membership is well worth the additional $55 for the savings on their A+ rated insurance).

If you are injured and go to a practitioner, they will be able to bill your insurance company directly. Your insurance company will pay your bill. If the other driver is at fault, that company will reimburse your insurance company.

If you are not at fault in your accident, the other insurance company may not want you to use your medical payment option. Beware if an agent from the other driver’s insurance sets up a meeting with you to settle before you have had necessary treatments. Recently, one of my patients had an incident where he was thwarted out of using his Med Pay. An agent from the other driver’s insurance company sought him out and had him sign papers that limited his treatment payments before it was determined what he needed.

If you want assurance that you will be able to seek treatment from the practitioner of your choice in an automobile accident, you will do well to procure Med Pay with your auto insurance. You will be allowed to see medical doctors, chiropractors, acupuncturists, deep tissue therapists as well as procure necessary MRI’s or X-rays. These practitioners will not need to collect payment as they will bill directly. If you do not have Med Pay, you may be asked to pay for your treatment and then hope to settle your bill at the end of your treatment.

If you are in an auto accident and have proper insurance, be sure to talk to your agent before you settle your case. Even if you are at fault, your Med Pay will pay for your treatments. Be sure to call your claims department before you start treatments so that you are certain of your coverage. Your chiropractor’s office will no doubt also call to confirm coverage.

Remember, some auto accidents result in very serious injuries, including broken bones, concussions, organ and brain damage. You may need to go to the ER. Med Pay will cover these high expenses. You may want to obtain the maximum Med Pay that you can afford. If it is a serious accident, you may also wish to consult a lawyer. Be sure to negotiate with the lawyer for their fees ahead of time. Negotiate for their fees to be 33% rather than 40%. Insist that your practitioners get paid, in the settlement. (Some lawyers are happy to reimburse themselves before the practitioners.)

Including Med Pay may be the most valuable investment you will make…in your body’s health and ability to recover in the face of a serious injury. I hope you never need to use it, but if you do, make sure you have Med Pay, call your own insurance company's adjuster then call a well-regarded chiropractor. In most cases you do not need to involve a lawyer unless the injury is serious or there are problems with your own company. Research online how yours is rated (A ++ is best).

If you are looking to change companies, ask your friends how their insurance company treated them when they were involved in an accident.

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