Personal Injury

If I Don't Have Medical Bills Can I Still Get a Personal Injury Settlement?

When a personal injury claimant has no medical bills (and no records of medical treatment) in connection with the accident, they're in for an uphill battle.
By David Berg, Attorney
Updated: Dec 20th, 2018

The short answer to this question is "probably not." Or, if you do get any kind of personal injury settlement at all, it's almost certain to be small. Let's take a look at why this might be.

Damages Are Critical to a Successful Injury Claim

In any kind of personal injury case, the plaintiff (the injured person) must establish two main things: who was at fault (negligent) and the kinds of harm that resulted from the underlying accident. Proving negligence usually means showing exactly how the defendant acted unreasonably under the circumstances, but that's just half the battle. The other (equally as important) half is proving that the defendant’s negligent action caused the plaintiff to suffer "damages", meaning losses. Let’s look at an example.

Let’s say you're in a car accident where the other driver rear-ends you at a traffic light because he was texting while driving. Not only that, the driver is cited for DUI at the scene. In other words, this defendant is clearly very, very negligent. But let’s say you miraculously escaped without any car accident injuries. Your car has incurred serious damage, but there’s not a thing wrong with you. You didn’t go to the hospital, you didn’t have a headache or any other type of pain, and you’ve had no medical treatment whatsoever in connection with the accident.

In that case, the defendant’s insurer might offer you $500 over and above settlement of the vehicle damage claim (or somewhere around that amount) just to close out its file. So, you'll still get something in the way of settlement, just not much.

So, that's the general rule. If you don't have medical bills, or records showing you received medical treatment, it’s likely because you didn’t suffer any injuries. No injuries equals no personal injury damages. So, what should you expect to get for a personal injury claim in this kind of situation? Aside from compensation for damaged or destroyed property, you shouldn't expect more than a nominal settlement.

Exceptions to the Rule

There are a couple of exceptions to the general rule, meaning there are situations where you can still get a personal injury settlement without having any medical bills.

The first exception is a wrongful death case. If the plaintiff is killed by the defendant’s negligence, the plaintiff (technically, the plaintiff’s estate) still has a claim against the defendant even though the plaintiff did not incur any medical bills. Learn more about wrongful death claims.

Another exception might be where you suffer a minor (but provable) injury as a result of the defendant’s negligence, but the injury didn’t require any formal medical treatment. Let’s say you cut yourself due to a defective product and you live in a rural area. You stopped the bleeding and you just went on with your life. Someone else might have rushed to the emergency room, but you’re a pretty stoic person and just solved your own problem. In that situation, assuming that you documented your injury and were otherwise able to prove that the product was defective, it is possible that you might be able to get a small personal injury settlement.

Medical Bills Versus Medical Treatment

Finally, let's make sure to note the difference between medical bills and medical treatment. As we explained above, it's very difficult to get a personal injury settlement without having received any medical treatment for injuries stemming from the accident (and without having records of that treatment). Learn more about how medical treatment affects the value of a personal injury settlement.

But you can still get a substantial settlement if you didn't pay your medical bills yourself -- if they were completely covered by insurance. For example, veterans who qualify for free treatment at a Veterans Administration hospital do not get bills. Their treatment is free. But if they receive treatment after an accident, any settlement will take into consideration the cost of that treatment. Just keep in mind that if you receive compensation via a settlement, your insurer (or in this example, the VA) will file a personal injury lien and will want some money back.

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