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Medical Bills and Insurance

I was injured in a car accident and my medical bills are piling up fast & I don’t have the money to pay them. If I send them to the other driver’s insurance company, will they pay them now?

- EF, California

Answer:

Unfortunately, the other driver's insurance company won't pay your medical bills as you incur them. They will only cut you a check at the end, after you have agreed to a settlement amount and sign a settlement release.

What can you do about the medical bills in the meantime?

  1. If you have health insurance, submit them to your health insurance carrier for payment. You should know though that if you collect money from the other driver's insurance company, your health insurance company will have a right of reimbursement (called "subrogation right") for any accident-related medical bills they pay for. Your attorney though will be able to negotiate down your health insurance carrier's reimbursement claim after your case settles, and may even be able to get your health insurance carrier to waive it, meaning you won't have to pay them back.
  1. If you have medical payments ("med pay") coverage under your own car insurance, you can submit the bills to your car insurance and it will cover accident-related medical bills up to whatever your med pay policy limit is. It will pay the money out right away; you don't have to wait until your case against the other driver settles to get the money. Med pay is an optional coverage which you may or may not have purchased. Check your policy or call your agent to find out if you have it. Med pay typically has a policy limit of $1,000, $2,000 or $5,000. That policy limit is available to each injured occupant of your vehicle. You need not worry that collecting med pay will cause your insurance premiums to go up. As long as the car accident was not your fault, your auto insurance premiums will not be affected.
  1. Explain to the medical provider that the bill resulted from a car accident and you are pursuing a claim against the other driver. Ask if they'll hold the bill in abeyance until you settle the case. Medical providers have no duty to wait for payment, but they may agree to. If the medical provider won't, ask if you can pay the bill in installments. Maybe they will agree to take $25 or $50 per month until the bill is paid off. That way the bill won't go into collection and your credit won't be harmed.
  1. Hire a personal injury attorney who can try to get the medical provider to take a lien. A lien is a contract signed by you and your attorney which states that the attorney agrees to pay the medical provider out of the settlement. It provides assurance to the medical provider that they will ultimately get paid. Not every medical provider will take a lien, but many will. Even some hospitals will.


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