Depending on the circumstances, different parties may pay your medical bills following a car accident. If another driver is at fault for a victim’s losses, the at-fault driver would be liable for damages to the victim, including medical bills and other expenses. However, even if you file a claim against a liable driver, you may need to cover medical expenses until you reach a settlement.
Who Pays Medical Bills Following a Car Accident?
One factor that will influence who pays medical bills and other expenses after a car accident is whether the accident occurred in an at-fault or no-fault state. If the accident happened in an at-fault state, you can hold the at-fault driver or another party = liable for damages, requiring this party or their insurer to compensate a victim. However, you may need to pay medical bills before you recover compensation, which can take months to years in a car accident claim. While waiting for the claims process to complete, you will need to find a way to cover medical bills as they add up.
If you need to pay medical bills after an accident, you can use these channels.
Health Insurance or Medicaid
If you carry health insurance or Medicaid, this insurance should cover a portion of your medical expenses within the limits of your policy. You would obtain this coverage by filing a claim with your insurance company. However, your insurer may deny coverage if your treatment and procedures don’t fall under your policy.
Keep in mind that if your insurer denies coverage, you may still qualify for compensation through your insurer if they denied your claim in bad faith. In these instances, consult a car accident lawyer to discuss your options. An experienced lawyer may be able to help you seek coverage if the insurer wrongfully denied your claim.
In other cases, accident victims may be able to pay for medical bills via medical payment insurance, like MedPay. This coverage is typically part of an auto insurance policy and will pay a certain amount of medical expenses. Unlike health insurance policies, you won’t typically find a deductible with this type of coverage.
Once MedPay covers the portion of bills it can cover, injury victims would need to pay the rest of their bills through other insurance or out of pocket. People often use MedPay coverage to help compensate for out-of-pocket expenses that health insurance policies won’t cover.
These options enable you to receive treatment from medical professionals who will temporarily cover the cost in exchange for a portion of a settlement from a claim or lawsuit. Hospitals and other facilities may allow for liens when accident victims have insufficient insurance coverage for treatment. In these cases, these facilities would require accident victims to sign lien letters establishing an agreement between the facility and the patient.
While victims won’t need to pay out of pocket with a lien, they will need to agree to pay a designated amount from a settlement to healthcare providers.
Out of Pocket
If you don’t have insurance or your policy provides insufficient coverage, you may need to pay medical bills out of pocket. While you may not have enough funds to cover all medical bills at once, hospitals and other entities may be able to create a payment plan allowing you to eventually pay off all expenses over time.
Paying Bills in “No-Fault” States
In certain states, including Florida, no-fault insurance applies. In these states, all drivers must carry a minimum amount of personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. This coverage can cover as much as 80 percent of your medical expenses following a car accident. No-fault states require a person to use their PIP coverage first following an accident before pursuing any other legal action.
PIP insurance pays medical bills regardless of who was at fault for an accident. However, it has a specific limit, and once it goes over this limit, you will need to pay for medical bills through other means. PIP insurance also limits your ability to file a third-party liability claim if the other driver was at fault. If you can cover your losses within your PIP limit, you will not be able to file a third-party injury claim.
In addition to medical expenses, PIP coverage may help pay for other expenses. These costs could include lost income if you’re unable to work following an accident, services required such as driving or housekeeping, and burial and funeral expenses if someone died in the accident.
What if the At-Fault Driver Doesn’t Have Insurance?
In states requiring at-fault drivers to pay medical bills through their insurance, you may run into issues if the at-fault driver is uninsured. In the event of an accident and the at-fault driver doesn’t have sufficient insurance coverage, you may be able to recover compensation through your policy if you have uninsured or underinsured coverage.
Steps for Filing a Car Accident Claim to Recover Compensation
After a car accident, you might file either a first-party insurance claim with your own insurance company or a third-party claim against the other driver’s insurance company.
If you don’t know who caused the accident, you would file a first-party claim if you live in a no-fault state and are filing with PIP or MedPay insurers, or the other driver doesn’t have insurance. In other instances, you might file a third-party claim if you live in an at-fault state and believe the other driver was at fault for the accident or your losses exceed your PIP coverage in a no-fault state.
In either case, the following are some steps you can take to prepare for a car accident claim and better your chance of recovering compensation.
Collect Critical Evidence
After seeking treatment, one of the first steps is to collect evidence supporting your claim. You should get ahold of as much relevant evidence as you can from the accident. Some examples of evidence in these cases could include medical records, police reports covering the accident, physical damage such as vehicle damage, video footage or photographs of the accident and the scene, and witness statements.
If you’re unable to obtain all the evidence you need for your case, an attorney may be able to help you acquire it. A lawyer with experience in these matters can reach out to police, hospitals, and witnesses to collect all key evidence. They can also help organize this evidence and present it during negotiations with insurers.
Report the Accident
Another important step is to report the car accident to your insurance company. You should report the accident as soon as possible to ensure you file a claim in time. The sooner you report the accident, the quicker your insurer can investigate the accident and initiate the claims process.
You can reach out to your insurer by either contacting the company online or by phone. You may also be able to do so using your insurer’s mobile application on a smartphone or tablet.
Wait for an Adjuster to Connect With You
When starting a claim, insurance companies assign adjusters to each case. Adjusters will likely contact you to request more information about you and the nature of the accident. It’s important to be honest and include only facts about the accident.
However, insurance adjusters aren’t on your side. They work for the insurer, which wants to avoid paying out as much as possible. If your case involves extensive damages and high costs, you may deserve a large settlement, meaning the insurer will work harder to avoid paying this settlement. In the process, your insurance adjuster may look for any reason they can find to either deny your claim or reduce the settlement amount.
Also, insurance companies may make an offer that’s far below what you’re eligible to recover. Even if the amount of money seems impressive, it’s typically best to have an attorney review the offer and turn it down if it doesn’t cover your losses. If you accept an offer from insurers, you may not be able to recover more compensation at any point in the future as the case is no longer active.
Connect With an Attorney
To avoid potential issues during the claims process, you may want to speak with an experienced car accident lawyer to help handle your case. An attorney should be able to meet with you in a free consultation to discuss your case.
If the attorney decides to represent you, they can help prepare your claim and negotiate with insurers. Attorneys will be able to collect evidence and calculate all damages involved in your case to determine how much you stand to recover.
Your lawyer may recommend you refuse the first offer that insurers make, instead continuing negotiations until you reach a fair settlement. If needed, a car accident attorney can take your case to court and help you navigate the trial process.
Generally, consulting a car accident attorney is a crucial step to take before you begin negotiations with insurance companies. You’ll learn about your rights and find out what you can recover in a claim or lawsuit with the help of a knowledgeable attorney by your side.
Types of Recoverable Compensation in Car Accident Cases
If you decide to file a car accident claim to recover compensation, your settlement may help cover far more than medical bills. Depending on your case and the specific circumstances, you may have the chance to recover various types of economic and non-economic damages.
Here are some of the specific types of damages you may be able to recover in addition to medical bills when filing a claim or lawsuit after an accident:
These types of damages are direct financial losses that victims sustain because of accidents.
Examples of economic damages may include:
- Medical costs
- Lost income
- Lost earning capacity
- Property damage
- Modifications to homes or vehicles to accommodate disabilities, such as ramps for wheelchairs
- Ongoing care
- Physical therapy and rehabilitation
- Funeral and burial expenses resulting from a victim’s death
Car accident victims may also be able to recover certain types of non-economic damages resulting from accidents. While economic damages account for direct financial losses, non-economic damages are more personal and pertain to the experience that victims endure after an accident.
Examples of non-economic damages include:
- Physical pain
- Psychological distress, including anxiety and depression
- Loss of consortium (relationship)
- Loss of enjoyment of life
When proving non-economic damages, victims can maintain journals that detail their experiences. They can use this journal to describe how they feel as they recover and cope with their injuries and trauma. An attorney can help calculate how much compensation victims may be able to recover based on the non-economic damages involved.
Some cases may also involve punitive damages if the at-fault party engaged in gross negligence or intended to cause harm in an accident. Only a judge or jury can award these damages in a trial setting, and they’re rarely involved in car accident cases. Courts may award these damages to prevent similar levels of negligence or malicious intent from repeating in the future. They essentially work by making an example of the defendant.
Reach Out to an Attorney to Discuss a Potential Claim
After a car accident, you may get help covering medical bills from multiple sources, including health insurance, PIP insurance, MedPay, or a settlement in an accident claim.
If you get in a car accident and don’t know your options to recover compensation and pay for medical expenses, consult an experienced car accident attorney to discuss your case. You’ll learn what the process will entail if you wish to begin a claim or lawsuit and what type of compensation you may be able to recover.
Taking the right steps after an accident may help you successfully file either a first- or third-party claim to recover compensation. Until you reach a settlement and receive that compensation, you may have certain options to help you cover medical bills, enabling you to make a full recovery without struggling financially.