Under California law, a person who negligently injures someone is legally responsible for paying that person’s medical bills. However, establishing that they are to blame often takes time, and some insurers will fight any attempt to pay out benefits.
Unfortunately, car accidents cause serious physical injuries that require immediate medical treatment. So who pays medical bills in a car accident in California if the at-fault driver doesn’t immediately agree to a settlement? In California, you have several options, described below.
Use Your Health Insurance
If you have health insurance, your insurer should cover you. Some people have insurance through work, while others bought insurance on the Obamacare exchanges or are on Medicare or Medi-Cal. To receive treatment, you will need to pay out-of-pocket expenses, such as co-pays and deductibles, which you can be reimbursed for once you agree to a settlement.
Many insurance companies will want reimbursement out of your settlement for any medical treatment they covered. This is called a “right of subrogation” and should be included in your insurance policy. If you don’t receive a settlement, then your insurer cannot receive anything.
Tap Med Pay Benefits
You might also have bought medical payments coverage, which is a form of car insurance. Med pay will cover medical treatment for injuries caused by a car accident. Most med pay policies have limits between $1,000 and $10,000.
Medical payments coverage is excellent because there is usually no deductible and the insurer will pay to cover you even if you were to blame for the collision. Some plans also cover medical practitioners that your health insurance will not, like a chiropractor or acupuncturist.
If you have Med Pay insurance, you should definitely use it. You can let your Med Pay insurer and your health insurance provider decide who will cover which expenses.
Receive Treatment on a Lien Basis
If you have no health insurance or med pay coverage, you might get a doctor to agree to provide treatment on a lien basis. The lien gives the doctor a right of payment out of your car accident settlement proceeds. Receiving treatment this way is usually less ideal than if you use your insurance because you will have fewer doctors to choose from. Nevertheless, it is an option in California for people who have few other choices.
Submitting Health Insurance Bills
Once the at-fault driver’s insurance company agrees to accept liability for the accident, you will need to submit your medical bills to them. Your doctor should also provide you with copies of any test results, such as MRIs or CT scans.
Many insurers will also want to see relevant medical records that go back at least 5 years. They are typically looking to see whether your injuries are really pre-existing conditions, which an insurer is not responsible for covering. For example, a person might claim to have injured their back in a car accident when they really injured it a year earlier snowboarding.
Typically, you don’t need to provide medical records related to mental health or substance abuse unless you are requesting compensation for emotional distress. All records requested should be relevant to your current insurance claim.
Experienced Car Accident Lawyers You Can Trust
Who pays medical bills after a car accident in California will depend on what insurance you have, if any, and whether you reach a favorable settlement with the at fault driver.
For more information about your rights, please contact RMD Law today. You can schedule a free consultation with one of our Orange County car accident lawyers by calling (949) 326-5000.