Who Pays My Medical Bills After an Accident?
Sept. 13, 2022
You have been injured in a car accident. You think the other driver is to blame for what happened. While you’re trying to sort that out, your medical bills continue to accumulate. Every day, another bill or more is in your mail. Your name is on them. As far as the healthcare provider is concerned, you are responsible for paying them. You start receiving overdue notices and collection calls. After some time passes, you may even be named a defendant in a collection lawsuit filed by the provider.
On top of that, you may be unable to work due to your injuries. You might have lost your job when you couldn’t show up day after day. You may not have health insurance or any other way to pay them. Even if you do, should you go ahead and pay them or wait until you can hold the other person accountable?
At G. Aldrich Law, we completely understand the confusion surrounding mounting medical bills after an accident. As your personal injury attorney, we can help answer your questions, including: “What should I do when I get a medical bill?”
We also understand the stress the financial fallout can put on individuals and their relationships with others. Because we have worked with so many clients in similar situations in northern and southern California, including Lakeport and Woodland Hills, and Los Angeles, Lake, Riverside, and Colusa counties, we can help you too.
Does the At-Fault Driver Pay My Medical Bills in California?
The answer to this question, in a word, is yes, but it’s complicated. California is a fault state for auto and other liability insurance. If you can prove that the other driver was negligent and that negligence cause an accident that caused your injuries, the other party is financially responsible for your medical bills and other damages. You can file what’s called a “third-party claim” against the at-fault party’s auto liability policy. If the insurance company will not settle for a fair amount of compensation, you can file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party.
California requires auto owners to carry liability insurance on their vehicles. They can purchase coverage through an auto insurance policy with at least $15,000 in liability coverage per injured person and $30,000 per accident. Alternatively, auto owners can meet the financial responsibility requirements by depositing $35,000 in cash with the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), purchasing a $35,000 surety bond with a state-licensed company, or obtaining a certificate of self-insurance from the DMV.
Although auto owners often carry insurance that exceeds these minimums, they are supposed to have at least this much coverage. As you can imagine, pursuing a personal injury claim or lawsuit against the at-fault driver takes time. Insurance companies will make every conceivable effort to place fault on you and deflect it from their insureds to avoid paying a settlement.
What you should know is that until there is a settlement or jury award, the at-fault party will not pay your medical bills. In fact, that party will never pay your bills. You will need to pay them from the settlement once you receive it.
Will My Car Insurance Pay My Medical Bills?
You should understand the difference between liability coverage and medical payment or “med pay” coverage on your auto insurance policy. Liability coverage pays others if your negligence results in their injury. The only coverage you can use to pay your own medical bills would be med pay coverage if you have it. Med pay is optional in California, so not everyone buys it.
If you have it, however, med pay pays regardless of who is at fault for the accident. As your car accident attorney, we can help you collect your med pay to help cover some of the most immediate bills while we’re working on obtaining a settlement. Med pay can fill a valuable gap in the meantime.
Do I Use My Own Health Insurance to Pay My Medical Bills After an Accident?
If no one else is at fault for the accident, your health insurance should pay your medical bills according to the terms and limits of your policy. You would, of course, have to pay any deductibles, out-of-network costs, and treatment not covered by your policy.
If someone else is at fault, your health insurance policy may or may not pay, even if you ask them to. Some policies specifically state they will not pay if there is even a potential third-party claim. If your health insurance will pay, it might be a way to keep the bills from mounting, although you will still have to pay deductibles and out-of-network costs out of your pocket and wait to recover them from your settlement.
Most insurance policies state that they have a right to be reimbursed if you recover a third-party settlement, which means you would have to pay your insurance company back from your settlement.
Whether you ask your healthcare providers to submit charges to your own health insurance depends on several factors, some of which can affect how much of your settlement you can actually keep in your pocket. We know this is all confusing, but we also know how to review the pros and cons of every option to give you the information you need to decide for yourself.
What If I Don’t Have Health Insurance?
Being uninsured is no reason to not seek medical treatment. In fact, it is imperative that you seek immediate medical treatment after an accident for your health and well-being. You will also need medical records and bills to assert a third-party claim or even to claim the med pay benefits in your own auto insurance policy.
Any emergency room that accepts Medicare, and nearly all of them do, cannot turn away patients based on their health insurance status or ability to pay. Many non-emergency providers will continue the treatment you need if someone else is responsible for the accident. They will file a lien against any potential insurance settlement for the cost of their services. Once you obtain a settlement, we will work with those providers to reduce those liens so you can keep more of your settlement for yourself.
Seek Legal Advice Today
If someone else caused your injuries, leave the ins and outs of paying for your medical bills to our experience. Ultimately, every decision is yours. We give you the information you need to make informed decisions to put as much of your settlement into your pocket.
If you have medical bills after an accident caused by someone else in Lakeport, Woodland Hills, or throughout California, call G. Aldrich Law now to schedule a free consultation.