How to Handle Your Medical Bills after a Car Accident
If you are involved in a serious car accident, seeking immediate medical care is your number one priority. When injuries are severe, it can be quite worrisome to watch expensive medical bills pile up.
Keep in mind that if someone was at fault for the collision, they will be responsible for your healthcare costs. However, it can take time to receive payment, especially when dealing with insurance companies.
Georgia’s “Fault” Car Accident System
Now, when it comes to motor vehicle accidents, Georgia follows what is known as a “fault” system. This means that the driver responsible for the accident is liable for paying for any resulting injuries or property damage.
Note that the Georgia fault system differs from “no-fault” states. No-fault systems typically require you to either go through your own insurance or meet certain thresholds before you have a right to sue the other driver.
That said, the fault system allows you to choose one of three options after an accident, including minor “fender benders.” First, you can file a claim with the company that insures your vehicle. That insurance company would pay out under your policy and then potentially sue on your behalf.
The second option would be to file a claim against the other driver’s insurance company. This would require you to negotiate directly with them. Note that this can be complicated, so it’s always a good idea to speak with an attorney before settling your claim.
Finally, you can choose to file a personal injury lawsuit. However, with this option, you must prove that the other driver was at fault. Failure to win your case would result in you being responsible for paying all of your medical costs.
It’s also important to note that, in a lawsuit, your claim will be reduced proportionally based on how much you are found to be at fault for the accident. For example, if you were deemed 10% to blame and would otherwise be entitled to $100K in medical bills reimbursement, you can only recover up to $90K in compensation. Keep in mind that if you were found to be more than 50% at fault, you are not allowed to recover any amounts.
Using Your Own Insurance
As you might imagine, personal injury lawsuits can take a long time to complete. In cases where you feel that you need payment for your medical bills right away, you may elect to go through your own insurance company.
Note that under Georgia law, drivers are required to carry at least $25,000 in injury coverage. But, it’s important to recognize that this requirement only applies to other people’s injuries, not your own.
For this reason, you may have enrolled in personal injury protection under your policy. However, this is not a legal requirement, so you will need to contact your carrier to see if you elected to take this type of coverage.
Another option that you may have available to you is to use your personal health insurance to pay your medical bills. Your ability to rely on your health insurance will depend greatly on the type of policy and coverage you have, as well as your healthcare needs. Note that you would still be responsible for any copays and deductibles.
What Happens if the Other Driver Doesn’t Have Insurance?
Unfortunately, some drivers do not carry car insurance even though it is legally required. For this reason, many motorists choose to add uninsured or underinsured coverage to their own policy.
This is a great option because your insurance provider will step in and pay for the difference in amounts you are entitled to in cases where uninsured/underinsured driver is at fault. However, like personal injury protection, these coverage options are not legally required under Georgia law.
You may also choose to sue the driver directly. But, even if you win, there is no guarantee that the person at fault will have enough money to cover your medical expenses. In this case, they are referred to as “judgment proof” which can make it very difficult for you to collect.
Bringing a Lawsuit for Medical Bills
With that in mind, the person at fault for a car accident and/or their insurance provider will be responsible for more than just your medical bills. Other expenses such as property damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering are also part of the compensation package that you are owed in these situations.
However, note that under Georgia law, if your own insurance pays for your medical bills or other costs, they are entitled to reimbursement in any subsequent lawsuit.