Following the Accident: Hospital Life in Korea

So after a car knocked me over on a busy crosswalk in Daejeon, South Korea, I was taken to nearby university hospital in Dunsan by ambulance.  As I mentioned in the previous post, I was told by the doctors that I’d be alright and walked out of the ER only to discover 9 days later that I had a crack in my spine that the X-ray failed to catch.  Bummer.

I was admitted to Daejeon Woori Hospital in Dunsan-dong, a facility specialized in spinal treatment.  I was really a fortunate case.  I didn’t know much about Korea’s insurance system and I was just about to let go of the incident and move on as I seemed fine except for the bruises and what seemed to be a pain in the muscle.  If it wasn’t for the advices I received from my parents and other locals I may have missed all the benefits and rights that I deserve.

In case you ever get involved in a car accident like I did in Korea, here’re some tips that I learned hard way.

  • Never say that you’re sorry or you’re fine at the accident scene.

Your kind remarks may work against you later on.  Also, it might not hurt at the moment but sometimes the pain emerges days later.

  • Get the driver’s phone number and his/her insurance agent’s number

After you are taken to the hospital, the driver’s insurance agent will likely to become the contact person.  Get the case number as you will need it to have them pay your hospital bills.

  • Witness is important.  Stay in light of what’s being told to the police on sight.

I didn’t know better (and was in much pain) so I simply followed the rescue officers and got on the ambulance before I even saw the police coming.  Luckily, there were many bystanders that were willingly making statements to the rescue officers as I was being hoisted away and I’m sure they spoke to the police once they arrived.  The driver’s insurance agent had already heard the stories from the police before he came to see me at the hospital.  I just hoped that I was there to tell my version of the story as well.

  • Before you go to any medical center for accident-related treatment, make sure the insurance company contacts the facility ahead for payment guarantee.

Having the driver’s insurance covering all my medical expenses is called 지불 보증.  In order to get 100% free treatments, I needed to have the driver’s insurance company contact the hospital prior to seeing the doctor to ensure they guarantee the payment.

  • Finally, many ajummas at my gym could not stress this enough — never settle when they ask you to!

Once you settle the case with the insurance company, they’ll simply make one big payment and have you sign the agreement.  After that, it is done — they will not be involved in any of your future medical treatments which is risky as most car accident victims suffer from long-term aftereffects.  There is no deadline to these settlements so no need to rush on your side.  Of course the insurance agent will try to push you to sign but take time and get all the check-ups and scans, do some hospital times and even get acupunctures done — anything that could help you to recover from even the slightest after math that may have caused by the accident.

In my case, it was natural for the driver to cover all my bills as she hit me with her car as I was crossing the street.  I thought, just like in Canada, the driver is 100% at fault but was surprised to find out that I would take some responsibility as well because in Korea a bicycle is considered a vehicle and treated equally as a car.  So, in my case the accident would involve two vehicles, not a car and a bike.  And because I wasn’t walking the bike as I was crossing the street that also adds up to my part (I admit that I should have walked my bike on crosswalks).  Another catch was that because the crosswalk I was walking had no pedestrian light, it cannot be entirely the driver’s fault as she had her green light on when she was making that turn before she hit me.

All in all, it was definitely a life lessons which I had to pay a price for.  Thankfully it wasn’t too bad.  It could have been a lot worse.

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Friends brought in precious supplies

For the first few days I had lost my appetite.  I’ve never been hospitalized before and the fact that I had to lie all day except for bathroom breaks (to avoid additional collapsing of spine) just made me feel weary.  Nothing like some good old treats to boost that energy level — physically and mentally.

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The personal TV system they had for each bed was out of this world — I’ve never seen anything like it!  It must be a brand-new technology.  The monitor can be dragged in close or away and is equipped with smart TV program that allows you to watch re-runs of popular shows and movies.  The best part was the remote — not just a controller but also a private sound system.  Place it next to your pillow and only you can hear the sound while the others in the room cannot.  Must-have in all hospital wards.

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There are some western meals available and you get to choose either the typical Korean meal or the yummy chicken burger and wedges with fresh side salad for lunch.  Another example of a satisfying dinner was chicken salad with scrambled egg and chocolate waffles for dessert.  My roomies keep complaining about how hospital meals are inedible while I stay quiet because I’m so enjoying these.

In the end, I got out on September 4th, 11 days after I checked in.  They still advised me to spend most of my time in bed until the bone fully heals which will take about 4 to 6 weeks.  Now I’m at home in the comfort of my own bed mastering the art of typing on my back.   Every couch potato’s dream, I guess.

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