If getting into an automobile accident wasn’t bad enough, you suffered injuries and received medical attention, and now you find out that even though you didn’t cause the accident, you have to pay for your own medical bills.
How fair is that?
Not fair at all, but unfortunately, it’s usually a reality, at least until your case is resolved and the liable party accepts responsibility, which can take months or even years.
Who pays the bills in the meantime?
Your Medical Pay Coverage
Medical pay, commonly known as med-pay, is optional coverage that you can add to your own personal car insurance policy that will pay accident-related medical bills up to a specific limit chosen by you when you buy the coverage. Med-pay will cover you and whoever else is riding in your automobile in the event of an accident, no matter who was at fault.
Medical payments coverage is not required in Georgia, but it can be a good thing to have, even if you have other health insurance because:
- It is affordable – a $50,000 med pay endorsement might cost less than $100 per year
- No pre-existing conditions will apply
- Your bills will be paid right away without co-pays, deductibles, or limits on what providers can provide treatment
- It will cover expenses incurred up to three years from the date of the accident.
Although coverage varies, the Georgia Commissioner of Insurance requires insurance companies to offer limits of at least $1,000, $2,000, $5,000, $10,000, $25,000, and $50,000. Because it only costs a few dollars more a year so we strongly encourage everyone to have it. We would suggest at least $5,000 or more for each policy you have.
Your Health Insurance
After your medical payments coverage is exhausted, your health insurance plan may pick up your accident-related medical bills, although depending upon your coverage, co-payments, deductibles, and co-insurance will likely apply.
If your medical pay coverage is exhausted and you don’t have health insurance, you’ll be expected to pay your bills yourself. Even if you have health insurance, it will rarely cover your medical bills first dollar the way medical payments coverage does, so you will be responsible for co-pays, deductibles, and co-insurance.
If a lawsuit arises from your accident, your medical providers may agree to carry your balance until the case is settled, although interest might accrue. Your attorney might be able to get the interest charges waived or reduced when your case settles, depending upon the strength of his negotiation skills and relationship with the providers.
The Other Driver’s Auto Insurance – Sooner or Later
If the accident wasn’t your fault, you can bring a lawsuit against the responsible party to recover accident-related past and future medical expenses as well as lost wages for pain and suffering.
But you’ll have to be patient, as a personal injury claim can take several years to resolve, either through settlement or trial, and your bills will not be paid until the matter is closed. Insurance carriers usually never pay your bills as they come in to you go before completely settling your claim with them. This is a tool insurance companies use to get people to take less than the full value of their claim. (This is known as the “we can wait you out” approach and strategy)
Then, as if that were not enough, when you actually recover compensation in the lawsuit, your health insurance contract will likely require you to reimburse your carrier for all accident-related medical bills paid on your behalf. This is known as subrogation.
The good news is an experienced trial lawyer deals with these issues every day and can help you navigate the process in the most advantageous way for you specifically. If you have questions: Ask. The more you know the better you will be in the long run.
A partner with Childers, Schlueter & Smith, LLC,, Brandon Smith has devoted his practice to pharmaceutical litigation, mass torts, products liability and serious personal injury. A frequent guest speaker at legal seminars all over the country—Brandon is focused on helping injured victims nationwide, however possible. Named a SuperLawyer in 2017, he has also been called out as one of 10 Best Attorneys For Georgia by the American Institute Of Personal Injury Attorneys.