Who Pays For the Medical Bills After a Car Accident in San Diego, CA?

The medical bills after a car accident can be staggering. A minor injury could include an emergency room visit, follow-up visits with a physician, physical therapy, and medications. As a result, a person could owe thousands of dollars for a minor car accident injury.

If you sustain severe injuries because of a motor vehicle accident, the cost of medical care could skyrocket. For individuals who sustain permanent impairments from a car accident, the medical bills may total hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

It can be frustrating and frightening to deal with medical expenses after an automobile accident. Some medical providers turn the accounts over to collection companies. The collection companies can be relentless in their pursuit of payment.

If you did not cause the car crash, you shouldn’t have to deal with this stress? Shouldn’t the other person pay your medical bills if they caused the car crash?

Payment of Medical Bills by the At-Fault Party

Under California’s personal injury laws, a victim is entitled to reimbursement of the cost of medical care from the party who caused the accident. Therefore, if another driver causes a motorcycle accident, bicycle accident, truck accident, pedestrian accident, or car crash, that driver is responsible for paying the victim’s medical bills.

However, the medical bills are not paid as the victim incurs the expenses. The cost of medical treatment and care is included in the settlement amount for the car accident claim. If the case goes to trial, the jury would determine whether the other driver owes the medical bills and how much of the medical bills should be included in the award.

This begs the question: who pays the medical bills while the car accident case is pending?

The Victim is Responsible for the Medical Bills 

Until the car accident claim settles, the victim is responsible for the payment of medical bills. The victim may handle medical bills in one of several ways.

Health Insurance

If you have health insurance coverage, your health insurance provider will likely pay the medical bills from the accident. However, you are responsible for the payment of copays and deductibles.

Your health insurance company expects reimbursement of any money it paid when you receive your settlement. The right to recover money paid for car accident medical bills is called a subrogation claim

Sometimes, the health insurance company may agree to accept a lower amount to settle the subrogation claim. Your accident lawyer will attempt to negotiate the lower payment. 

PIP Insurance Coverage

If you have Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance or MedPay insurance, you can file a claim against your insurance coverage. It should pay a portion of the medical bills regardless of who caused the accident. 

Medical Liens

In some situations, your doctor may accept a medical lien to provide treatment after a car accident. You sign an agreement stating that you will pay the medical bills from the proceeds of your settlement. If you do not receive money for your personal injury claim, you are personally liable for the medical bills.

Documenting Damages to Increase the Value of Your Injury Claim

You must provide proof of all expenses you intend to submit with your car accident claim. Therefore, you need an accurate and detailed record of all medical bills and expenses incurred because of the accident. Your car accident lawyer generally requests final statements from all medical providers to include in the settlement demand.

However, out-of-pocket expenses are not included. You need to keep copies of all receipts or other proof of payment for:

  • Over-the-counter medications
  • Medical supplies or equipment (i.e., bandages, alcohol swabs, cane, crutches, walking cast, bedside commode, etc.)
  • Prescription medications 

Medical expenses after a car accident are economic damages. Anything that you pay out-of-pocket for your medical care should be included in your settlement demand. 

You may also be entitled to reimbursement and compensation of other economic and non-economic damages, such as:

  • Loss of income
  • Personal care costs
  • Help with household chores
  • Travel costs to and from doctor’s visits
  • Physical pain and suffering 
  • Permanent impairments
  • Loss of quality of life
  • Emotional and mental anguish and distress

The value of a personal injury claim depends on several factors. Your attorney works with your physicians to determine the extent of your damages. The legal team also works with you to document other damages for your claim.

Unfortunately, you will not receive any money until the claim settles. However, do not rush to settle a car accident claim too quickly. Settling your claim before your doctor releases you or before you understand the extent of your damages could result in losing thousands of dollars in damages.