If you have suffered injuries in a car accident, it is highly likely that you will need continuing treatment and care until you fully recover. This means you may have to pay thousands of dollars in medical expenses. Such expenses typically include doctor's office visits, cost of emergency room care, hospitalization, medications, medical equipment and physical therapy, among others.
While you may receive compensation for basic medical bills, you may need additional funds to pay for treatment and care that is ongoing. So, in these types of situations, who pays the bills? Will your auto insurance or health insurance company cover these expenses? Because of these complex issues, it would be a good idea to retain the services of an experienced California car accident lawyer who can guide you through this process and help you recover maximum compensation for your losses.
California is an "At-Fault" Insurance State
So, what does this mean? It means that when you get into an accident with another driver, the motorist who is at fault is responsible for paying for the damages caused. If you are not at fault for the accident, there are three different ways in which you can get compensated for your medical expenses and other losses:
- You can file a claim with your own auto insurance company, especially if you have the coverage available.
- You can file a claim with the at-fault driver's insurance company through his or her liability coverage.
- If the other driver's insurance will not cover your injuries and damages, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver.
California law requires drivers to carry a minimum of $15,000 in liability coverage to compensate victims for the car accidents they cause. If you have sustained injuries in a car accident, you can claim this coverage. But you may be limited in what you get based on the policy limits. If your injuries exceed the coverage, you can't claim additional funds. Also, it is important to remember that once you receive an injury settlement, you cannot receive additional funds to pay for medical expenses.
Do You Have to Pay Your Medical Bills?
When it comes to car accident cases, the at-fault party does not need to pay for your medical expenses on an ongoing basis. If you are injured in a car accident, you will need to pay your medical bills as they begin to accumulate. Even if you were not at fault for the accident and it has been clearly established that the other party was at fault, the at-fault driver only has to pay the damages you have requested in your lawsuit.
If you get into a car accident in California, you will generally have to pay for your medical bills out of pocket or through your health insurance. If you have Med Pay coverage, you can cover your medical expenses up to policy limits. If you have health insurance via a private insurer, Medicare or Medicaid, your expenses could be covered by your health insurance plan. However, your health insurance company may request reimbursement for those costs from your final settlement amount.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Insurance
Personal injury protection (PIP) insurance covers your medical bills and lost wages when you or your passengers are injured in a car accident. PIP is optional in most states including California. PIP insurance may overlap with your health or Med Pay insurance, but in certain situations, multiple policies can be a blessing.
Personal injury protection is also known as "no-fault insurance" and helps pay medical bills and rehabilitative costs for drivers and passengers who have been injured in a car accident. PIP can be extremely valuable because it also extends to instances when you are a passenger in someone else's car or when you are struck and injured by a car while walking or riding a bike.
PIP insurance is different than bodily injury liability insurance in that while PIP coverage pays for your own expenses, liability insurance pays for the medical expenses of drivers and passengers in other vehicles when you are at fault for an accident. PIP coverage is particularly meant for vehicle-related injuries, which are sometimes excluded from health insurance coverage. PIP also covers a number of additional expenses that Med Pay does not cover. PIP covers expenses including surgeries, hospitalization, ongoing care, lost wages, funeral costs, and home care expenses such as childcare or housekeeping.
If you are injured by another driver and have PIP as part of your car insurance policy, you would typically use your PIP coverage first before turning to other options. If your medical expenses exceeded your policy limits, you can file a claim under the other driver's liability insurance policy. But, if you are catastrophically injured, which means that you need continuing treatment and care, you may bypass your PIP coverage and file a lawsuit against the other driver so you can recover maximum compensation.
Why You Need to Seek Compensatory Damages
This is extremely important because compensatory damages can help significantly reduce the financial burden that arises from medical costs in the aftermath of a car accident. When you have medical bills you have to pay out of pocket, you can seek reimbursement for those costs by filing a personal injury lawsuit or insurance claim.
If you have suffered major injuries and expect to undergo ongoing treatment, it would be in your best interest to file a personal injury lawsuit, as opposed to an insurance claim. This is because, with a personal injury lawsuit, you can seek compensation for future medical expenses as well. If you have been injured in a car accident and have not filed a personal injury lawsuit, please contact an experienced Orange County car accident lawyer right away to assess your options.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, it is important that you seek the counsel and guidance of an experienced Orange County car accident lawyer who will remain on your side, fight for your rights and help you recover maximum compensation for your injuries, damages and losses. Call the Law Offices of Timothy J. Ryan at 714-898-4444 for a free, comprehensive and confidential consultation.