How Are Medical Bills Paid After a Washington Car Accident?

Have you been injured in a car accident in Washington?

You’re having a difficult time after your car crash. Your injuries are painful, you’ve lost wages from missed work, and those medical bills are starting to pour in. But if the accident wasn’t your fault, shouldn’t the at-fault driver’s insurance pay your medical bills as you go? That’s a common misconception about car accidents. The reality is that, aside from a few exceptions, the other driver’s auto insurance company will not pay your medical bills as you’re being treated. The at-fault driver’s liability coverage is intended to protect them from being sued and to provide them with an attorney and protection if they are sued, and they will only pay you once your personal injury case settles.

So, how will you pay for your medical expenses in the interim?

With a team of Washington personal injury lawyers, you can navigate the process of getting your medical bills paid while you wait for the settlement check from your auto accident.

Layers of Medical Expense Coverage for Injured Parties

You may realize you might not see a settlement check from the at-fault driver’s insurance provider for quite some time—it can take  even longer in personal injury cases that go to trial. You need an immediate solution for paying medical bills for your car accident injuries to get the treatment you need and avoid being sent to collections for unpaid balances.

Several layers of medical coverage might apply to your particular situation.

Personal Injury Protection Coverage

Usually, the first layer of medical coverage for injury treatments after a car accident is your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. PIP coverage is typically included in your auto insurance policy, and its purpose is to provide immediate coverage for medical treatments should you be injured in a car accident.

In Washington, PIP coverage offers some valuable benefits, including:

  • No copays or deductibles
  • Normally pays 100% of medical bills
  • Might also pay lost wages (if you miss more than two consecutive weeks of work)

Every Washingtonian driver must be offered PIP coverage, and most drivers have it unless they signed something to reject it. It’s recommended that you do not decline this coverage, as it will be valuable when you have to wait for a personal injury settlement.

Health Coverage

If you don’t have PIP coverage included in your car insurance policy or if it doesn’t apply to your accident or you run out of PIP coverage, the next layer of medical coverage for your injuries would be your personal health insurance. Any copays, deductibles, or out-of-pocket maximums associated with your health insurance policy would apply, so check with your provider to determine how these will affect your bottom line. Once you’ve reached a settlement in your personal injury case, your health insurance provider and PIP carrier will usually want to be reimbursed for the medical expenses they covered under your insurance claim while you were being treated.  The questions of whether the health insurance has a right to be paid back and, if so, how much can be answered by a personal injury lawyer.

Charity Programs and Medical Provider Payment Plans

When you’re in a situation where PIP coverage doesn’t apply or has run out, and you don’t have health insurance, some hospitals and clinics have charity programs that help patients pay for outstanding medical bills. At the very least, the medical facility you’re being treated at should have options for payment plans. This will allow you to pay a minimal monthly amount and keep your account out of collections until your personal injury claim or lawsuit settles.

Medical Liens

Some medical treatment facilities will take a lien against your personal injury settlement to continue treating your injuries. This is often the last-resort option and will involve signing a lien letter with the medical provider. This letter gives them the right to collect appropriate repayment from your settlement once it has been awarded.

Coverage When You’re a Passenger, Pedestrian, or Bicyclist

While the at-fault driver’s liability insurance will not pay for your medical bills until a personal injury settlement is awarded, there are some notable exceptions. Suppose you suffer physical injuries in a car crash as a passenger. In that case, the driver’s PIP coverage will often cover your medical expenses to treat the injury as the first layer of coverage—whether or not the driver of the vehicle you were in was at fault for the collision. Then, your own PIP insurance will be your second layer of coverage before your health insurance coverage kicks in. As a passenger in the at-fault driver’s car—or as an injured bicyclist or pedestrian—the liability coverage of the at-fault driver will apply to cover the damages in auto accidents caused by their driving mistake. Still, the driver’s PIP coverage may be what covers your medical bills.

How Personal Injury Attorneys Can Get You More From Your Settlement

Personal injury lawyers aim to maximize the money you get from your injury settlement. This could come from the at-fault driver’s liability carrier or your underinsured motorist coverage in situations where the other driver didn’t have enough insurance to cover your damages. Your car accident lawyer will negotiate to pay back as little as possible to the PIP insurance carrier or your health insurance company. This means you’ll have more of the settlement money in your pocket. Getting treated for severe injuries after serious car accidents is traumatic enough without the stress of having to deal with medical expenses as you recover. Let a personal injury lawyer in Walla Walla help you navigate the medical payment process and take that overwhelming portion of the ordeal off your plate.

Author Bio

Peter J. Hess grew up in Walla Walla, Washington. He is a 1996 graduate of Walla Walla High School and a 2000 graduate of the University of Washington, with a B.A. in Business Administration/Information Systems.

Peter graduated from Willamette University College of Law, with honors, in 2007. While at Willamette, he was an Associate Editor of the Willamette Law Review, he was a Teacher’s Assistant for a Legal Research and Writing professor, and he worked as a Personal Injury Law Clerk at Swanson, Lathen, Alexander & McCann in Salem, Oregon. After graduation from Willamette, Peter began working here at Hess Injury Law. In 2012, he became a partner in the firm. He is licensed to practice law in both Washington and Oregon.

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