Editor's note: This blog post originally ran on the personal finance blog Len Penzo dot com.
If you have been seriously injured, you’re no doubt feeling overwhelmed with the number of decisions that need to be made. It can be helpful to keep a list of items that need to be addressed and cross them off one at a time. Regardless of your injury, your finances will continue to need your attention.
Here are six steps you should consider taking to protect your financial life in case of a serious injury:
1. Take advantage of short-term disability coverage.
If you have insurance through your employer, and your injury causes you to miss work, submit a claim for short-term disability coverage as soon as possible. While it will not make up for all of your lost income, it is a good place to start.
2. Get help with medical bills.
If you are injured, and do not have medical insurance, contact the hospital and doctors’ offices as soon as possible. Some hospitals offer financial assistance and payment plans. Some hospitals may even forgive your debt altogether, depending on your income. Even with good insurance coverage, there are bound to be some uncovered medical expenses. By keeping the lines of communication open with medical providers, you may be able to avoid unpaid bills being sent to a collection agency and damaging your credit.
3. Hire a personal injury lawyer.
A personal injury lawyer is necessary if you choose to sue for damages resulting from your injury. This may also be the only way to recoup your medical and other expenses after an accident. If your injuries are severe enough to warrant ongoing medical care, be aware that these costs can quickly add up. A respected personal injury lawyer can explain these considerations to you.
4. Stay in contact with your insurance company.
It can be frustrating to deal with insurance companies, especially when you are already injured and not feeling your best. However, be sure to call them regularly to stay up to date on your benefit claims. It’s very likely that you will have more than one person working on your claim. Whenever you call your insurance company, make a note of who you spoke with, as well as what was discussed. Additionally, you may need to reference more than one insurance claim number, so make sure to add these numbers to your notes.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Depending on your injury and recovery process, you might have trouble keeping track of details or remembering things. If this is the case, ask a trusted friend or family member to assist you with organizing your bills. Consider moving your bills to automatic payment so that no expense is accidentally overlooked.
6. Don’t rush into decisions.
At some point, you will be tired of dealing with hospitals, bills and insurance claims. You may wish it could all be over, so you can get back to your life. However, do not rush into any decisions or sign anything without consulting your lawyer first. After all, their job is to look out for your best interests.
When the last piece of paperwork is signed and your medical expenses have been paid, it’s time to review your financial situation. This might be a good time to make changes, such as adding or increasing medical insurance coverage.