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Written by: Steven R. Clawson
| Read Time: 10 minutes

You may wonder, who pays medical bills in a car accident in California?

In this article, we’ll go over who pays the medical bill, how your own insurance may cover the cost, what you need to file a lawsuit, and other questions you may have.

Unfortunately, care for injuries suffered in a California car accident could be extremely expensive. The potential expense should not deter you from seeking the medical treatment you need.

You deserve to receive medical treatment until you fully recover from your accident without worrying about the payment of your doctors’ bills.

Car accident injuries do not always appear immediately after an accident. The adrenaline rush you experienced in your car accident could mask some injuries, and you may not experience pain until later that day or even a few days later.

You should seek medical attention as soon as possible after a car accident. It’s imperative so that you can start the healing process right away. 

Seeking the advice of an experienced California car accident lawyer could help clarify your rights and responsibilities following a severe car accident that left you or a loved one injured.

Please give us a call at (707) 426-5300 or send us a message today for a free consultation.

Who Pays The Medical Bills In California After an Accident?

California is known as an “at-fault” state. Under California negligence laws, the party liable for causing an accident victim’s injuries must compensate the victim for the losses.

In other words, the person who caused the crash is the person who pays medical bills in a car accident in California.

California law requires that the accident victim prove another party’s negligence caused the collision and subsequent injuries.

A person is negligent when they have a duty to act carefully, as a reasonable person would in the given situation, but fail to do so. 

A negligent party has the responsibility of compensating the victim for all losses that flow from the negligent act, including medical bills.

What is the cost of an average medical bill after a car accident?

It is difficult to state with certainty the average cost of a medical bill following a car accident. The cost of any given medical bill will depend on the extent of the injury and the type of provider.

Medical expenses from a car accident in California could include:

  • Doctor bills,
  • Emergency room expenses,
  • Ambulance transportation fees,
  • Diagnostic tests,
  • Surgical expenses,
  • In-patient hospital costs,
  • Rehabilitation and follow-up care expenses,
  • Chiropractic care,
  • Physical therapy, 
  • Future medical needs,
  • Medical supplies, and
  • Medication.

A car accident victim in California should contact a successful and reputable California car accident lawyer. That way, you can learn more about the right to collect payment for medical bills and claim damages over and above medical expenses. This can include lost wages along with pain and suffering. 

Recent Success Story

Our Story

At Wells Call, we believe that success comes when we put in extra effort for the client. Here are the ingredients for success in all our cases. Experience, compassion, belief in our clients, tenacity, hard work, creativity, and a knowledge of the law. Some attorneys would just take a case and go through the motions. They might try to settle a case with the insurance company and take whatever they can get without putting in all the hard work necessary to get a client the best result possible. We don’t do that here.

Large Settlement from Gross Negligence

We recently settled a case for a large amount of money against a junkyard for serious injuries that occured on their property. This was a case that many attorneys would have given up on because the client signed a waiver before entering the property. A business can have people sign a waiver to prevent injured people from suing the business if they get hurt. However, we knew that this waiver wouldn’t hold up. A waiver does not cover gross negligence in California, and we saw that this company had violated several safety practices that made it clear that their behavior amounted to gross negligence. We also saw that this client with serious injuries was not getting great medical care, so we helped him find some of the best doctors to treat him for his injuries and arranged financing to make sure that we could pay for all of the treatment out of the eventual settlement or verdict.

Expedited Trial Date in 4 Months

Then, we planned our strategy to make sure that we would get the best result. We knew that we would never get fair value by simply calling the insurance company and trying to cut a deal, so we filed a lawsuit. Once we filed the lawsuit, we didn’t want to wait for the long delays that sometimes happen when the courts get backed up, and we filed a special motion with the court to get a trial date within 4 months. This is called a motion for preference, and it is used when a person is over 70 years old or in poor health. It’s a law that makes sure that defendants can’t use delay tactics to slow down a case when there is a concern that a victim might die before having his day in court. Although the attorneys for the junkyard vigorously fought our attempts to get this motion granted by the court, we fought back and won the motion. With only 4 months to prepare for trial, we got everything together, prepared all of our expert witnesses, did a site inspection of the junkyard to find all of the safety violations, took depositions of the company’s safety officer, and showed them that we were ready for trial.

Case Settled at Mediation!

Before going to trial, the junkyard’s lawyers wanted to hold a mediation to get one last shot to try and settle the case. We agreed to go to mediation and made sure that we came prepared. We prepared the mediator with all of the important facts of our case and put together a video with our client’s doctor, friends, and family to talk about how all of the injuries had impacted our client’s life. In the end, all of this hard work paid off. We settled this case at mediation, and the client was very happy. Although we can’t guarantee the same results in every case, we will put in the work to get our clients the best results on their case.

Options For A California Car Accident Victim 

You have several options to explore if the at-fault driver has no insurance or has too little insurance to cover your medical costs.

As a California accident victim, you typically have the following three options after a car wreck:

  • File a claim for compensation with the at-fault driver’s insurance company
  • File a personal injury lawsuit against the driver responsible for the crash or other parties; and
  • File a first-party claim for medical bill coverage with your own insurance.

Every claim is unique, and the circumstances of each case dictate the potential outcome.

Filing A Claim With The Negligent Driver’s Insurance Company

This is the first place you should turn. It is ideal to file a personal injury claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company for compensation as an injured car accident victim.

Every motorist must have at least $15,000 in bodily injury insurance coverage, according to California law. Driving a car without insurance or proof of financial responsibility is a crime. 

Considering the current cost of medical care, $15,000 might not cover all your bills. Even if the at-fault driver’s insurance company decided to settle for the full policy amount.

Your medical providers will expect you to start paying your medical bills as soon as you receive them. 

You have options to pursue compensation for medical bills from an uninsured driver who caused an accident in California. 

Filing A Personal Injury Lawsuit Against The At-Fault Driver Or Third Parties

You could sue the at-fault driver personally or negotiate with that person to pay the medical bills not covered by insurance.

However, the person driving a vehicle without insurance is likely to have little money or assets that would allow you to collect on a judgment. So you might have to look elsewhere to find compensation for your medical expenses.

The injured person could file a personal injury claim against other people who might have contributed to the accident. This can include another driver, business owner, or municipality.

As an accident victim, you remain responsible for proving the negligence of the other parties and proving their negligence contributed to your injuries. 

Filing A First-Party Claim

Another possible answer to the question of, “who pays medical bills in a car accident in California?” could be your own insurance.

Filing a first-party insurance claim could help relieve some burdens of medical bills. In a first-party claim, the accident victim files claims against insurance policies that the victim owns.

Examples of first-party insurance coverage are:

  • MedPay;
  • Uninsured/underinsured auto coverage; 
  • Homeowners’ or renters’ insurance; and
  • Health insurance.

First-party coverage could help fill in the gaps while you negotiate a settlement with the at-fault driver.

Car insurance policies in California carry optional coverage such as MedPay and uninsured coverage. MedPay is an optional coverage that California auto insurers sell to provide coverage for injuries suffered in a car accident.


A car accident medical claim is often paid from a MedPay policy. MedPay coverage is known as “no-fault insurance.”

No-fault insurance coverage requires the insurance company to pay medical bills, up to the amount of coverage purchased, regardless of who caused the accident. MedPay typically has a $5,000 limit, but the consumer could pay a premium for a higher limit.

Uninsured Coverage

You could also file a claim for uninsured coverage if injured in an accident with an uninsured driver in California.

Uninsured coverage may cover your losses up to the policy limit. However, it’s always possible that your insurance company could deny uninsured coverage.

A skilled California car accident lawyer can negotiate an uninsured claim with your insurance company to help recover the largest amount of compensation possible.

What If I Am Injured And Do Not Have Health Insurance?

You have the option to rely on your health insurance to cover injuries in a California car accident.

However, if you are in a car accident and have no health insurance, do not simply ignore your injuries. A healthcare provider must treat your injuries even if you do not have the ability to pay for them.

The provider will work out a payment plan with you if you are uninsured or unable to afford treatment.

Your medical providers or medical insurance could file a lien against your claim so they could be reimbursed for your treatment if you get an injury settlement from the other driver’s insurance company.

A medical lien must be paid from the settlement funds before you receive a settlement check.

Your California car accident lawyer could work with your healthcare providers to negotiate a reduced fee if you receive an auto accident settlement. 

Does Medicare Cover Auto Accident Injuries In California?

Medicare will cover subscribers injured in an auto accident. Typically, Medicare Part A will cover emergency services, and Part B will cover outpatient costs and medication. The coverage offered by Medicare is subject to co-pays, deductibles, and co-insurance payments. 

Medicare will pay only after an auto insurance company refuses to pay or will pay the remaining expenses if insurance is paid to the policy limits.

Like private health insurance companies, Medicare may place a lien on your recovery because Medicare is entitled to receive reimbursement for the coverage it paid for. Medicare cannot place a lien on recovery for pain and suffering.

Your auto accident attorney should specify the amounts allotted for pain and suffering and for medical expense compensation in the settlement to maximize your recovery.

Consult A California Car Accident Lawyer Today

Trying to negotiate with insurance companies after you were hurt in a California car accident merely adds to your stress.

The injury lawyers with Wells Call Injury Lawyers have tremendous experience negotiating just settlements for our clients injured in California auto accidents.

To date, we have recovered over $500 million for our injury clients.

Contact the injury lawyers at Wells Call today at (707) 426-5300 or reach us online for a free consultation, and make sure to discuss who pays medical bills in a car accident in California.


1. Do I Have to Pay Medical Bills from My Settlement in California?

Paying medical bills in a car accident in California can be complicated. Ultimately, all outstanding medical bills or liens should be satisfied before or at the time of your settlement. 

Depending on the specific terms of your settlement agreement, you may have to pay your medical bills out of this amount before you receive your settlement check.

It is also possible the other party or insurance company may have already paid these bills on your behalf. Every settlement and terms are case specific.

Your settlement should account for any outstanding medical bills.  

2. How Do Insurance Companies Pay Accident Medical Bills?

If you have MedPay coverage, that coverage will pay medical bills, up to the policy limit, regardless of who was at fault for the accident.  If you receive an insurance settlement, it should include compensation for your medical bills.

The insurance company will typically send a check to your attorney. If your attorney has received notice of medical liens, they will pay those before sending you the remainder of your money.

If you have received additional medical bills, you will be responsible to pay those out of your settlement check.

3. Who Pays Medical Bills in a Car Accident in California?

The short answer is, it depends. If you caused the accident, your health insurance or auto insurance will typically pay your own medical bills.

If you were not at fault for the accident, the other driver’s insurance company is typically responsible for your medical bills.

However, it can take a while to sort out who the responsible party is, and medical providers expect to be paid quickly.

In these scenarios, you or your insurance company will initially pay your medical bills. Then, because insurers often have a right to be reimbursed for bills they have paid on a victim’s behalf, they can seek reimbursement from the other driver (either the individual or their insurance company). 

4. Do You Have to Pay Back Medi-Cal with Insurance Proceeds from an Accident Settlement?

Yes. If Medi-Cal paid medical bills on your behalf, then you are required to reimburse Medi-Cal if you get a settlement.

Typically, there will be a lien for any amount Medi-Cal paid to medical providers as a result of injuries sustained in the accident.

The Medical lien will be satisfied or paid back from the proceeds of your settlement.

However, it is possible to have this amount reduced or waived in certain circumstances. 

5. How Long Does an Insurance Company Have to Settle a Claim in California? 

Generally, insurance companies in California must respond to a claim within 85 days from when it was filed. However, if there are serious injuries or multiple injured parties, it can take longer to process the claims.

If a lawsuit is initiated, this will also most certainly extend the time frame in which claims settle.

There are several other variables that can affect that timeline, so it is best to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney. 

The Wells Call Injury Attorneys can help you gain a better understanding of when to expect your individual claim to settle.

6. What Types of Medical Bills Can Arise After a Car Crash? 

The average medical bill after a car accident varies depending on what type of injuries were incurred in the accident. The average cost of medical care from a non-disabling car accident injury is around $29,200, while a disabling injury can cost upwards of $101,000. Though, it is important to note that every accident is different. 

These medical bills can be made up of the following: 

  • Hospital bills, 
  • Costs of medicine,
  • Physical therapy expenses, 
  • Doctor’s bills, 
  • Surgery costs, and 
  • Medical device expenses. 

Further, if you are concerned about the cost of your medical bills after an auto accident, a personal injury attorney can help you negotiate with health insurance companies so that you can stay on top of your financial situation after your accident. 

7. How Else Can a Lawyer Help You with Medical Bills for a Car Accident Injury? 

Generally, you are responsible for the payment of your own medical bills after an accident, at least until the insurance companies sort things out. Eventually, the responsible party (or probably their insurance carrier) will reimburse you (or your insurance company through a process called subrogation) for the bills you have paid.

This process can take some time, so paying medical bills in a car accident in California can be financially strenuous. A personal injury lawyer can help you get on top of your medical costs from a car accident in a number of ways.

A lawyer can help expedite the legal process and initiate the process of negotiating medical bills after an accident. For instance, a lawyer can call your doctors and set up financial arrangements with them on your behalf.

A personal injury lawyer in California can also help you avoid a costly and timely litigation process by negotiating a settlement with the opposing party. That way, you can receive compensation for your medical bills faster.

An injury lawyer can also help you arrange ways to help cover your medical bills until you receive your damages payout or settlement package.

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