There can be a lot to deal with after a car accident – doctor visits, car repairs, insurance claims. It can be overwhelming to many. In this article, I will answer one of the questions I hear most often from car accident victims: Who pays the medical bills in a car accident?
The answer to the question varies depending on many factors, and I will address several of the most common ones below. As a North Carolina car accident attorney, I have represented many car accident victims and have witnessed firsthand much confusion and worry about how medical bills are paid after a car accident. So, let’s alleviate some of that worry, and focus on the facts here.
Who Pays Your Medical Bills if the Other Driver Was Responsible for the Accident?
If another person negligently caused the car accident that you were injured in, the at-fault driver is responsible for your medical bills. In North Carolina, drivers are required to purchase a minimum level of bodily liability coverage ($30,000 per person and $60,000 per accident) in car insurance to pay for the other party’s medical expenses when they are at fault for the wreck.
However, the insurance company will not pay these bills unless a settlement has been reached (or a verdict is reached if the case goes to trial), and this can take weeks, months, or even longer. But you are still responsible for paying these bills as they come in.
In order to pay the doctors, hospitals, ambulance services, and other medical expenses in a timely manner, you may have to submit your medical expenses to your own health insurance company first (or to Medicare or Medicaid, if you have it), and then reimburse these organizations from any future settlement.
Also, if you have MedPay auto insurance coverage, which is optional in North Carolina, it may cover out-of-pocket health care-related costs (such as health care deductibles or co-pays) and other medical expenses for you and other occupants of your car.
Who Pays for Medical Bills After a Car Accident That You Caused?
If you were found to be responsible for the car accident, the bodily liability portion of your car insurance helps pay for the medical expenses of the other driver and passengers. MedPay insurance, if you have it, can also cover the medical bills of you and your passengers when you are at fault for the car accident.
You would also rely on your own health insurance to pay your medical expenses.
Does Contributory Negligence Affect Who Pays the Medical Bills After a Car Accident?
It certainly can! North Carolina is one of the few states that still follows the legal doctrine of contributory negligence which states that individuals who are found to be even partially responsible for an accident (even just 1%) may not be entitled to any compensation.
For example, if you were in car accident in which another driver hit you when you were making a left turn, and you were found to be partially responsible for the accident by the insurance company, they may cite contributory negligence and deny you compensation for your claim.
Some insurance companies may spend a lot of time investigating your accident in an attempt to determine if you were partially at fault, in order to try to avoid paying for your medical expenses. That is why you may need to file with your own health insurance to pay your medical bills in a timely manner and then seek reimbursement when any settlement is finalized.
Who Pays Your Medical Bills if the At-fault Driver Has No Insurance or Doesn’t Have Enough Insurance?
Even though bodily liability coverage is required of all drivers in North Carolina, there are drivers who do not carry it. And unfortunately, these drivers sometimes cause wrecks. In response to this, NC requires all drivers to purchase uninsured motorist (UM) coverage as part of their auto insurance policies. Your UM coverage can pay for medical bills for you, your family members, or any passengers in your car if you are hit by an uninsured driver. In North Carolina, the minimum required UM amount is $30,000.
Many drivers in North Carolina also choose to purchase optional underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage which can be used to cover medical expenses that exceed the at-fault driver’s auto insurance. In NC, the minimum amount of UIM coverage is $50,000, and the maximum is $1,000,000.
How Are Medical Bills Paid After a Car Accident if You Don’t Have Health Insurance?
If you don’t have health insurance and are injured in a wreck, you may not be able to pay for your medical treatment until after you receive a possible settlement. And settlements can take a long time since accident victims often have to wait until the doctor declares that they have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) before their claims can be pursued. What happens then?
Doctors, nurses, hospitals, and other medical service providers can claim a medical lien under North Carolina law if you can’t pay their bills. This lien gives them the right to compensation for medical services provided to you in any settlement or court verdict after your accident. I advise you to consult with an attorney about whether or not you should ask your medical provider to accept a medical lien as a payment plan option.
How Can the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin Help You With Your Medical Expenses?
In a car accident, who pays the medical bills is an important question. I have covered several answers to versions of this question in this article, but I urge you to reach out to a personal injury attorney for guidance as soon after the accident as possible. Every accident is different, but all victims should fight for justice and compensation.
At the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin, we have helped more than 55,000 injured people since we opened our doors in 1997. There are many ways we can try to help with your medical expenses, such as:
- Seeking compensation from the at-fault driver’s car insurance company
- Advising on medical or hospital liens
- Providing guidance on how to strategically pay your medical bills (which bills to pay first, which can be paid after the case is resolved, which bills get submitted to health insurance or MedPay, etc.)
- Negotiating with medical providers and health insurance companies to try to reduce reimbursement requests