Most drivers carry car insurance. A car insurance policy may cover these areas:
- Liability for bodily injuries (medical costs, lost income, and funeral/cremation expenses)
- Property damage
- Uninsured/underinsured drivers
- Medical payments/personal injury protection
- Towing and roadside assistance
- Rental reimbursement
State laws generally require people to carry liability. Other coverage forms are optional. Many drivers get the minimum thinking that will cover everything, but it’s not always the case. If you go for the bare minimum and are in a crash, you may find your insurance doesn’t cover your medical expenses, even if another driver is at fault.
Car insurance will cover x-rays and scans of the body to check for fractures, internal bleeding, and dislocations. It covers the cost to stitch up a gash or deep cut. It pays for surgeries resulting from injuries sustained during the crash. Most any injury that was caused because of the crash is covered under bodily injury liability coverage.
Who caused the crash? That dictates what happens when it comes to settling medical bills. If you cause the crash, liability coverage will pay for other drivers, passengers, bicyclists, and pedestrians that were injured. It won’t cover your medical bills. You would need medical payments/personal injury coverage to pay for your medical bills. Your own health insurance policy may offer some help paying medical bills, but they will defer to your or the other driver’s car insurance policy first.
If another driver causes the accident, his/her liability coverage pays your medical bills. If the policy limit isn’t enough, he/she is still required to pay, but it may have to come out of that driver’s pocket. If you have uninsured/underinsured driver coverage, that may help cover your medical bills. It still may not cover them all. Always talk to a personal injury attorney to see how to get all of your medical bills covered.
The other scenario is that multiple drivers are found to be at fault. If that happens, the insurance companies will investigate and decide the ratio of fault. If it’s found to be 50/50, your insurance pays half and the other driver’s insurance pays half.
Depending on the amount of time it’s taking to reach a settlement, you may have to pay some medical expenses yourself. If this happens, submit the bill to the insurance company for reimbursement.
The Minimum Requirements May Not Be Enough
State laws vary, but most states require drivers to carry car insurance. In California, drivers must carry bodily injury liability coverage and property damage liability coverage. Each of those has minimum amounts of coverage. For bodily injury/uninsured motorist bodily injury, you must have at least $15,000 individual/$30,000 per accident for each. For property damage liability, you need to have at least $5,000.
In lieu of insurance, drivers can deposit $35,000 with California’s DMV or get a surety bond from a licensed company. The final option is to get a self-insurance certificate from the DMV. If you skip this requirement, you could be fined or lose your car. If you’re driving in California during a visit, you need to make sure your insurance company is valid in California. If not, make sure you get valid coverage before you travel.
One area to pay close attention to is the bodily injury’s minimum of $15,000 per person or $30,000 per accident. If you’re in an accident and have five people in your car, that $30,000 limit breaks down to $6,000 per person essentially. That’s not going to go far if there are serious injuries.
Medical Bills Add Up Fast
Don’t automatically assume that the minimum would be enough to cover your medical expenses following a car crash. It may not. If you look at the average hospital bill for common injuries after a car crash, it’s easy to see how easy it is for medical bills to use up the policy limit.
Start with the ambulance ride to the hospital. It does vary from one city to the next, but in Los Angeles, emergency ambulance transportation ranges from $700 to $1,500. If the accident caused back pain, seeing a doctor in the emergency room ranges from $600 to $1,300 and scans or x-rays adds another $3,300 to $8,100. An MRI to check for chest injuries ranges from $2,400 to $5,400. X-rays of a leg, arm, foot, hand, or pelvis adds hundreds of dollars. Surgeries, physical therapy, and follow-up appointments add to these estimated costs. It adds up quickly.
Navigating who pays for what after a car accident is challenging. Your insurance company may help you go after the other driver’s insurance, so that will offer some assistance. One mistake you cannot make is to take the insurance settlement if you’re uncertain it will cover all of your medical care and follow-up care. CZR Law can help you decide if it’s a fair offer. Call us for a free consultation.