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Should I Seek Chiropractic Care After a Car Crash?

chiropractor with patient

The number of crashes on Michigan roadways through November 29, 2020, was 221,692. That is an average of over 600 accidents per day. With this high frequency of car accidents in Michigan, it’s important for motorists to understand the risks and the steps to take following a car crash. A person injured in a car accident should first seek medical care following the crash. An emergency room doctor or your primary care physician will be able to evaluate the severity of your injuries. These medical professionals can order diagnostic testing such as x-rays or MRIs if needed for further evaluation. Unfortunately, not all injuries will appear on these diagnostic tests. Bruises, broken bones, and lacerations are fairly easy to spot, but soft tissue damage, whiplash, and muscle injuries are less apparent. And because the body sometimes goes into shock after being involved in a collision, many people don’t realize until days later the severity of their pain and stiffness. Injuries such as these often require specialized treatments and therapies, such as chiropractic care. But you may wonder how you will pay for chiropractic care or if it’s covered by your no-fault policy.

Should I See a Chiropractor for My Car Accident Injuries?

We cannot tell you what is best for your care, recovery, and rehabilitation. If you were injured in a car crash, you may first need to be seen by an emergency room physician. Your primary care doctor will then get involved in the continuum of care you will need to rehabilitate your injuries. At that time, it may be a good idea to have a conversation with your primary care doctor about any specialty services and treatment to make your best recovery, including chiropractic care. As a Michigan car accident law firm working with hundreds of auto accident victims, our firm has seen the good work accomplished under the guidance of a skilled chiropractor and is worth exploring as an option with your own medical team.

By visiting a chiropractor shortly after your accident, you can begin the healing process on any injuries that may not materialize until later, making your recovery period faster and getting you back to your normal activities with less interruption.

Does Michigan Auto Insurance Cover Chiropractic Care?

Yes – Michigan no-fault insurance covers chiropractic care as long as the need for care arises from your involvement in a motor vehicle accident. In short, your auto insurance won’t cover treatment that isn’t specifically needed because of injuries from a car crash.

Under Michigan no-fault law, an auto accident victim has the right to recover certain no-fault PIP benefits (usually from the victim’s own insurance company), no matter who caused the accident and regardless of whether the injured person was driving, was a passenger in a motor vehicle or was a pedestrian or a bicyclist. These PIP benefits cover medical expenses, such as ambulance services, medical and surgical treatment, hospital stays, X-rays, and chiropractic services.

Chiropractic Care for Car Crashes Under 2019 No-Fault Law

Up until mid-2020, auto insurance policies included unlimited no-fault PIP medical coverage paid for medical expenses incurred as the result of injuries sustained in a motor vehicle collision, regardless of who caused the accident. However, as a result of the recent auto no-fault reforms, Michigan residents can now purchase varying levels of no-fault insurance protection from their auto insurance carrier. In addition, those with private or state-sponsored health insurance can now opt out of no-fault PIP benefits altogether. Those who opted out of no-fault coverage altogether and rely solely on private health insurance or state-sponsored health insurance should be aware that health insurance is not nearly as robust as PIP coverage as far as the types of treatment available, such as the number of chiropractic appointments permitted, out-of-pocket costs, and other expenses. It is vital you understand the coverages available to you under those separate forms of insurance.

We must also highlight a second potential sticking point for injured motorists seeking chiropractic care under the 2019 reformed no-fault law. For those who chose less than unlimited lifetime medical coverage, it remains unclear how outstanding bills above the selected medical coverage will actually get paid. So, for example:

Alex sustains injuries in a car accident and seeks emergency medical evaluation right away. He previously chose a $250,000 no-fault policy limit. His ambulance ride, emergency evaluation, diagnostic testing, and three days of in-patient care totaled $225,000. He then has $25,000 left in medical care coverage. However, his injuries require regular physical therapy sessions which will likely total more than $20,000. Additionally, his primary care physician recommends ongoing chiropractic care which will cost a total of $10,000.

In this instance, the injured person’s complete care for their auto accident-related injuries is likely to exceed the total available no-fault coverage of $250,000. The reformed no-fault legislation did not describe how payment for services rendered would be divvied up. Will bills be paid in the order in which they were incurred? Will they be paid in the order of which the no-fault provider deems as most important? The answers to these questions still remain unclear and were left up to speculation by the drafters of Michigan’s 2019 reformed no-fault statute. Because chiropractic care after a car crash will likely follow many other rounds for treatment, those with capped policies should understand that they may exhaust their benefits and have none left to cover their chiropractic care.

What Type of Chiropractic Treatment Does No-Fault Insurance Cover?

Ultimately, whether or not chiropractic care is covered under your no-fault auto insurance policy will depend on whether or not you have purchased insurance. Oftentimes, in more serious accidents, emergency medical care rendered immediately following a very severe accident, may require you to go under medical care that will cost more than your insurance limits. When that occurs, chiropractic care would no longer be covered under your no-fault insurance policy. However, when your insurance policy providers you with enough PIP coverage for long-term medical care for accident-related injuries, chiropractic care will likely be available through your no-fault insurance policy. This is one of the many, many reasons we recommend purchasing lifetime unlimited no-fault coverage. Read our other auto insurance recommendations here.

Prior to July 1, 2020, MCL 500.3107b exempted no-fault insurers from paying for chiropractic services outside of the definition of “practice of chiropractic.” Some treatments, such as ultrasounds and heat/cold packs, were not covered under that definition and therefore weren’t compensable as no-fault benefits.

However, on July 1, 2020, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed House Bill 4449 (2020 PA 104) which eliminated the limitation based on the “practice of chiropractic” definition. Thus, beginning July 2, 2021, no-fault insurers will face expanded liability for chiropractic services.

In short, if you and your medical team have determined you need chiropractic care after a car crash, it is likely a covered benefit under your auto no-fault policy. You should read your policy closely and call up your auto insurance agent if you have any other specific questions regarding chiropractic care and treatment for your auto accident-related injuries.

Joel Finnell

Author – Joel Finnell