Injured in a car accident? You’ll see a Doctor for medical care. Medical care means medical bills. And medical bills have to be paid.
But who exactly pays for these medical bills? Our Car accident attorneys explain who is responsible for paying medical bills after a car accident in Florida.
PIP Insurance Pays Medical Bills After A Car Accident First
Florida drivers are required to carry a special type of insurance called Personal Injury Protection Insurance.(PIP). If you have a vehicle you have to have PIP insurance.
PIP insurance covers medical bills for any personal injured in an auto accident.it does not matter if you were the victim or the bad driver. PIP is no-fault medical bill coverage.
How Much: The standard minimum for PIP insurances to cover 80% of bills up to $10,000.00.
PIP insurance is primary insurance. So if you are in a wreck and go to the Emergency Room the hospital is going to bill your PIP insurance first, before looking for other sources of insurance (see below).
The nice thing about PIP insurance is that it does not just cover the person who is listed as a driver on the policy. It also covers family members that live in the house. So for example, a pedestrian injured in a collision with a motor vehicle can look to other member of their household to see if PIP coverage will step in for their medical bills.
There are a few notable exceptions where PIP may not apply. Passengers in buses and public transport for example may be excluded from PIP insurance. Passengers in ridesharing or taxis as well may be excluded.
PIP insurance has been a staple in Florida since the 1970s. However, lawmakers have been discussing disbanding PIP in recent years.
The original goal of PIP was to minimize bodily injury car accident lawsuits. If people just needed to go to the ER or urgent care to get checked out but otherwise did not have any permanent injuries or pain and suffering then PIP insurance could jump in get those bills paid. They may not need an auto wreck lawyer to fight a claim.
The reality however is that car accidents cause trauma. Significant trauma that often leaves a victim with a permanent injury. Or a significant claim for pain and suffering. And PIP is simply not equipped to handle these injuries.
How PIP Insurance Pays Medical Bills After An Auto Accident
Your treating doctors will get your auto insurance information. The doctors will then bill the PIP insurance company just like they would with health insurance. Luckily most PIP insurance claims go through within 2-2 weeks. This is great because when you are hurt right after an accident you can focus on getting diagnosed and treated, and not worry about how the bills are getting paid.
Med-Pay Pays Medical Bills After An Auto Accident Second
You may have purchased an additional type of insurance that pays for medical bills after an accident called med-pay insurance.
This insurance is pretty straightforward. It consists of additional insurance coverage to pay for any medical bills that need to be paid as a result of an auto accident. If it sounds similar to PIP insurance that’s because it is. The difference however is that medpay covers 100% of your medical bills up to a certain amount. PIP if you remember only covers 80%.
So, if you have purchased 5K in medpay insurance coverage and you already have 10K of PIP insurance then you will have 15K of front line insurance to pay your medical bills.
Once your auto medical bill insurances are used up you will turn to your health insurance to help cover your medical bills.
The good news is that your health insurance will make sure your medical bills are getting paid timely. You want to keep your credit clean and your Doctors paid! However it is important to keep track of what medical providers you have paid with health insurance. At the end of your personal injury claim your health insurance company can place a lien on any settlement you recieve.
That’s because any settlement your car accident lawyer gets should contemplate all medical bills, including those paid already. It would not be fair for you to recover money specifically for medical bills that you did not have to pay but that were paid by your health insurance company. If your health insurance company liens your file your attorney will negotiate with them to remove the lien and get the health insurance company compesnated.
In some cases medical providers will not want to use health insurance. In other cases you may not have health insurance to cover treatment you need while waiting for your accident claim to settle. In these cases your provider might agree to treat you under a letter of protection which is discussed below.
Letter of Protections
A letter of protection is a contract. Your medical provider agrees to provide treatment up front. In exchange you agree that your medical provider will get paid out of settlement proceeds from an injury claim.
Doctors that treat patients under a letter of protection are taking a risk. They are betting that your auto claim lawyer will get a good result that will allow them to get paid on the back end. To make sure they are safe the doctors will have your lawyer sign the letter of protection before doing any treatment.
Insurance attorneys try to make a big deal when clients treat under a letter of protection. These defense attorneys think it is a shady practice. But the reality is sometimes victims of bad driving are hurt and need medical treatment but are unable to pay their medical bills until their cases are settled. The victim may have exhausted their PIP and not have any health insurance. Or, they may have health insurance but a deductible that is too high to pay.
The irony of course is that insurance attorneys will also complain if an injured person does not proactively get medical treatment to get better after an accident. This can put you in a bad position. In these case letters of protection can be lifelines.
Bodily Injury Insurance: When the At-Fault Party’s’ Insurance Actually Pays
By now you’re wondering when the person who caused the accident will step in and pay bills.
OF course in most cases the answer is never. At least directly. Instead the bad driver’s insurance company will pay medical bills through “bodily injury” insurance.
So what is bodily injury insurance?
This is the insurance coverage a person buys to cover them in case they screw up and hurt someone else.
Bodily injury insurance covers injury related damages as a result of bad driving.
This insurance coverage covers reasonably necessary medical bills. It also covers lost wages, pain and suffering, and pretty much all the other damages that make up a personal injury claim. Both in the past and in the future.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is that insurance companies hate paying out money. Many times the insurance company will try to pay out settlement money that does not even cover back medical bills. These companies rarely offer to pay future medical bills.
The other bad news is that this insurance does not “kick in” after treatment. It is only paid out when an injury claim is fully settled.
That’s ok. A big part of a car accident lawyer’s job is to fight the insurance company to get full value from the bodily injury insurance company. That means making sure you get enough money to pay for everything that has been taken from you now and in the future. Including your medical bills as a result of the accident.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage; When There is not Enough Insurance for the At-Fault Party
It would be great if every driver in Florida purchased sufficient bodily injury insurance to cover any injuries caused by bad driving in the future.
But that would be a fantasy. Florida does not require most drivers to have bodily injury coverage. Florida only requires drivers convicted of DUI’s to carry bodily injury.
Drivers that do carry bodily injury coverage often carry small coverage amounts that often can’t cover many medical bills.
Luckily, many drivers that are victims of bad driving have opted for “full coverage”. These drivers have purchased uninsured motorist coverage.
Uninsured motorist insurance provides coverage to an injured party when a bad driver does not have bodily injury insurance. Uninsured motorist coverage also pitches in when a bad driver had a little bit of bodily injury coverage but not enough to cover all medical bills.
Uninsured motorist acts exactly like bodily injury insurance. The only difference is it is coverage you buy for yourself.. Just in case.
That means when you have an uninsured motorist bodily injury claim you are actually bringing the claim against your own insurance.
And as you can expect your insurance does not want to pay you for your claim. Expect your car accident lawyer to have to be aggressive in prosecuting your uninsured motorist claim just like he would be if it was a bodily injury claim
But Who Pays Medical Bills After My Case is Settled and Closed
We know that under our civil justice system the bad driver should pay past and future medical bills caused by his or her bad driving. That means the bodily injury and uninsured motorist coverage mentioned above should pay these future medical bills.
But sadly most victims of car accidents settle their claims without getting money for future medical bills.
The thing is, you get one shot at your accident settlement. You can’t come back and readdress later. You have to estimate the dollar value of future medical bills in your current car accident claim.
No easy task.
Once your care car accident claim is closed you’ll turn to other sources to pay your medical bills.
Your health insurance will then be the primary source of payment for future medical bills. Standard rules of health insurance claims will apply. Recognize however that some soft tissue conservative care treatments like massage or chiropractic may not be covered under your health insurance plan.
And of course, government benefits like medicaid may also provide coverage for future medical bills.
Luckily there are multiple sources of coverage to make sure medical bills are paid after a car accident. PIP and medpay are primary sources that pay medical bills up to a certain amount after an accident. Health insurance is available for most treatments when these primary sources are used up. Bodily injury and uninsured motorist are the big policies that car accident lawyers use to fund settlement, but unfortunately money from these sources only comes at the end of an auto accident case. In the meantime some Doctors will provided medical treatment on a letter of protection to make sure you get the treatment you need when you need it.