Paying Medical Bills in a Car Accident in California: Everything You Need to Know

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 so that you can start the healing process right away. 

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

When You Get in a Car Accident, Who Pays the Medical Bills in California?

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. 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 to learn more about the right to collect payment for medical bills and claim damages over and above medical expenses like lost wages along with pain and suffering. 

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

Filing a personal injury claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company is the first place you should turn 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, such as 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, 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 of the burdens of mounting 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.

MedPay

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. Further, a healthcare provider must treat your injuries even if you do not have any 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 a 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 out-patient 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 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) 302-8029 for a free consultation, and make sure to discuss who pays medical bills in a car accident in California.

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