Who's responsible for the immediate medical bills after a car crash?

If you're like most people, you probably assume that the at-fault driver pays for all the medical bills after an auto accident. After all, it seems fair, doesn't it? The person who caused the accident should be responsible for the damage he or she caused to innocent people.

However, it isn't so simple. If you have a personal injury case, it will likely be quite some time before the case is resolved and the at-fault driver's insurance company is forced to pay for anything. What do you do in the meantime? You can't wait weeks, months or even years before obtaining medical help. So how do you pay for the immediate medical care you need - such as ambulance rides, emergency room treatment, etc. - while your personal injury case is still pending?

The good news is that you may have several options. You may be able to pay your initial bills through:

  • Medical payments coverage. According to the Texas Department of Insurance, this is coverage that you purchase as part of your own auto insurance policy. It is intended to cover medical bills or funeral bills after an auto accident. It covers both the driver and any passengers, no matter who caused the accident.
  • Personal injury protection (PIP) coverage - This coverage is very similar to medical payments coverage except that it pays for even more. In addition to covering medical bills, it can reimburse you for 80 percent of your lost income and the cost of paying for a caregiver to nurse the injury victims.
  • Private medical insurance - If you have private health coverage (and most people do), the doctors and hospitals will typically bill your health insurance company first.
  • Workers' compensation - If your car accident happened while you were on the job, the workers' compensation insurance that your employer carries may cover your medical bills.

Here's one more important thing to know: Regardless of which insurance company foots your initial bills, it will eventually want repayment. This means that once you receive a verdict or settlement from your personal injury case, the insurance company will ask for some of the money.

Having a skilled personal injury lawyer working for you is one of the best ways to minimize the amount you will owe to the insurance company. Your attorney can work to negotiate a favorable reimbursement agreement for you that keeps as much money in your pocket as possible.

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