Personal Injury

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

By David Berg, Attorney
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 when it comes to getting more than a minuscule settlement.

The short answer to this question is "probably not." Or, if you do get a settlement, it will almost certainly be a pretty small amount. Let's take a look at why this might be.

Damages Are Critical to a Successful Injury Claim

In any personal injury case, the plaintiff (the injured person) must prove negligence and damages. Proving negligence usually means showing exactly how the defendant acted unreasonably under the circumstances, causing the underlying accident. Learn more: What is Negligence?

But proving that the defendant was negligent is 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 that you miraculously escaped without a scratch. 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 the property damage settlement (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 injury damages. So, aside from compensation for damaged or destroyed property, you shouldn't expect more than a nominal settlement.

Learn more about Personal Injury Damages.

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: Wrongful Death FAQ.

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 (or maybe you or someone else even managed to put in a stitch or two) 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). But you can still get a substantial settlement if you yourself didn't pay your medical bills -- 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 personal injury damages via a settlement, your insurer (or in this example, the VA) will file a lien on your case and will want some money back out of your settlement. (More: What If There Are Liens on My Personal Injury Case?)

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