Who pays your medical bills after a car accident?

Author David Chester Ohio Car Accident Lawyer

As any competent Ohio personal injury lawyer knows, many people who are injured in a motor vehicle accident are fortunate to have options in deciding who will pay for their medical bills.

One option would be if you are covered by health insurance (i.e. a private health plan, Medicare, Medicaid, a health plan through employment, etc.).

Second, many people have built in to their own automobile insurance a medical payments coverage plan, also known as “med pay.” Med pay covers medical bills that result from car accident injuries, and essentially acts just like health insurance.

However, which plan you choose to initially pay for your medical bills after being in a car accident can greatly affect the amount of money you will get to keep from the at fault party. Talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer about this such as the lawyers at Chester Law Group.

Generally, whenever an insurer or med pay carrier pays for medical bills that are the result of another person’s negligence, they are entitled to be reimbursed for the money they paid (there are many exceptions to this rule and every situation is different, a car accident attorney should be consulted to assess an individual situation).

This legal concept is known as “subrogation.” The theory behind subrogation is that the insurer is paying for damages that are the result of another party’s carelessness, and that they should not have to pay for this carelessness. Subrogation as it is applied in the personal injury field has been a hotly debated topic for years, and the laws on subrogation continue to change year after year.

As it stands, the amount you have to pay back, if any, depends on whether your health insurance pays or your med pay pays. Most health insurers have contracts with certain medical care providers that allows them to pay a reduced amount when paying their insured’s medical bills.

For example, if you have a medical bill for $100 and your health insurer pays it, they may end up only paying $60 for the full satisfaction of the bill. How much of a reduction they are given depends on the insurer. Med pay on the other hand, usually ends up paying the full amount dollar for dollar, so in the last example med pay would pay $100 for the $100 medical bill.

Doctors and hospitals love med pay because it usually pays 100 percent of the medical bill. This difference is important when the time comes to pay back either the health insurer or med pay after a settlement has been reached in a personal injury claim. Your personal injury attorney can explain this in more detail.

Going back to the example, if you used your health insurance to pay your bill then you would only have to pay back $60 instead of the full $100 if you had used med pay, thus giving you an extra $40 to keep from your settlement (assuming the settlement was based on medical bills of $100).

The lesson to be taken away is that in most instances it is better to have your medical bills paid by your health insurer. However, this is only a very general rule, and there are many exceptions that are way beyond the scope of this short blog/article. If you don’t have health insurance or med pay, then you really need to talk to an accident lawyer who can inform you of your options regarding treatment. Some doctors take letters of protection from an attorney basically promising to pay the bill from the settlement. Anyone injured in a car accident should consult an injury attorney to assess their unique situation.

Now if there is not enough auto insurance, the situation may change. For example, the law allows you to not pay back health insurance or med pay when all the auto insurance is used up. This is called the make whole doctrine. Insurers can use magic language in their policies to eliminate this rule. Most health insurers do have the harmful language, but most med pay carriers do not.

So, if you used your med pay in this situation, you would probably not have to repay them at all from the settlement when all the insurance, both liability and underinsured motorist, is used up. This would put more money in your pocket. You can see from this small example how complicated these issues are and why an personal injury lawyer is so important to consult on these difficult issues.

Call the experienced Ohio personal injury lawyers at Chester Law Group Co., LPA 800-218-4243.