Thursday, July 24, 2008

Who Pays Your Medical Bills When Someone Hits Your Car?


As ridiculous as it may sound, when someone hits your car and is at fault, hospitals, medical doctors, chiropractors, and physical therapists CAN NOT bill the responsible party’s insurance company for direct payment. There is no State of Georgia law that requires the responsible party’s insurance company [the liability carrier] to pay your medical bills. The bills first have to go through an optional automobile coverage you can buy [and should have] called medical payments coverage [med pay]. If you don’t have this coverage you can turn to any other health insurance you have — with it’s built in deductibles, copayments, exclusions, and restrictions on who you can see, how often, and for how long. Some health insurance will not pay if treatment is due to a car accident.

What the liability carrier will do is tell you to let them know when you are through with treatment; then they will offer you a lump sum settlement. Many times, particularly from one company that advertises a lot, what is offered is less than the sum of your medical bills, which could exceed the policy limits the responsible driver had in effect at the time of the accident.

Of course the person who hit you may have no insurance. Then if you don’t have collision or uninsured motorist coverage [called UM] you are going to lose the value of the car as well. You can sue the other driver — if they didn’t hit and run, and if they have any assets. If there is no insurance, the settlement process is protracted [it can take over a year sometimes], you have missed income due to injury, or other issues, you could end up filing bankruptcy. This happens to people regularly.

There are additional scenarios I don’t have the space to cover — like in the case you or a family member doesn’t make a complete recovery and needs ongoing care. Or using your health insurance after an injury, getting a settlement from the liability carrier, and finding out your health insurance company has a legal right to be paid back what they spent in medical bills out of your settlement [subrogation rights].

All of the information above has been reviewed for accuracy by three attorneys who specialize in, and have years of experience in this field.

The best advice is:

1. Buy medical payments coverage [med pay] from your auto insurance agent.
2. Discuss other optional coverage like uninsured motorist coverage [UM]
3. Have high liability limits, particularly if you have a teenage driver!

SOME PEOPLE TELL ME THEY HAVE “FULL COVERAGE” ON THEIR CAR BUT DO NOT HAVE MEDICAL PAYMENTS COVERAGE, OR HAVE A MINIMAL AMOUNT. Emergency room care and hospitalization with fractures or worse can go through tens of thousands in coverage!!

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