Who is Responsible for Paying Car Accident Medical Bills?

Responsibility for car accident medical bills can fall on numerous parties, both in the short term, and once fault for the crash is sorted out.

By , Attorney | Updated by David Goguen, J.D.

When you're hurt in a car accident and you receive any kind of medical treatment, medical bills are sure to follow. But who is responsible for paying these bills as they come in? And who will bear ultimate financial responsibility for the cost of your accident-related injuries if you end up making an insurance claim or filing a lawsuit? In this article we'll explain:

  • your typical options for getting your car accident injury-related medical bills paid as they come in
  • how your medical bills go a long way toward determining your "damages" in a car accident-related insurance claim or lawsuit, and
  • how an attorney's help can be critical if your car accident injuries (and the resulting bills for treatment) are significant.

Who Pays Car Accident Injury-Related Bills As They Come In?

The first thing to know about car accident injury-related medical bills is this: Even when it's clear that the other driver is at fault for the accident, they don't have to pay your medical bills as they come in. Ultimate financial responsibility for your car accident injuries is another story; more on that later.

So how will your accident-related medical bills get paid in the short term? There are a number of different options, depending on the law in your state, the kinds of insurance coverage you have, and the specifics of your situation:

  • no-fault car insurance
  • medical payment insurance coverage
  • health insurance
  • Medicare
  • Medicaid
  • your workers' compensation insurer, if your car accident occurred in the course of your employment

Let's take a closer look at each of these options.

What Happens In "No Fault" Car Insurance States?

Many states follow a "no fault" insurance system for motor vehicle accidents. No fault insurance means that your own automobile insurer will pay some or all of your medical bills (and lost earnings) if you get into a car accident, regardless of who was at fault for the accident.

Every state's law is different. In some no fault states, there is a relatively low limit as to the amount of medical bills that will be paid; in other states, the limit is much higher. For example, in some states, the limit might be as low as $2,000, but, in others, it might be as much as $50,000. After your medical bills exceed your state's no fault limit, you or your health insurers are responsible for paying them.

Do You Have Medical Payment Insurance Coverage?

Many drivers in states that do not have no fault insurance have the option of purchasing medical payment insurance coverage (known as "med pay" coverage).

"Med pay" coverage will pay the medical bills of drivers or passengers who are involved in a car accident with the insured person, up to the insured's "med pay" policy limits, which are generally less than $10,000.

After your bills exceed the "med pay" policy limits, you will be responsible for paying them. "Med pay" coverage is not always required, so if neither you nor the person at fault have "med pay" coverage, you are responsible for paying the bills. While drivers in no fault states can purchase "med pay" coverage, there is not much need for it, given the existence of no fault coverage.

Using Health Insurance to Pay For Car Accident Injury Treatment

If your car accident occurred in a no fault state and you have health insurance, your health insurer will pay your medical bills after the amount of your medical exceeds your state's no fault limit. For example, if the no fault limit is $10,000, and you incurred $15,000 of medical bills, the no fault insurer will pay the first $10,000 of medical bills, and your health insurer will pay the remaining $5,000 of medical bills.

If your car accident did not happen in a no fault state and you have health insurance, your health insurer will pay all of your medical bills as they come in.

One important thing to know about health insurance and car accidents is that, if a health insurer pays for medical bills related to a car accident, it is are entitled to be reimbursed for what it paid your health care providers. Learn more about using health insurance for car accident injuries.

Can I Use Medicare or Medicaid for the Treatment of Car Accident Injuries?

If you are on Medicare and you get into a car accident, as with health insurance, Medicare will pay all of your medical bills as they come in.

Medicaid is a federal program that assists states in providing health insurance to low income people. If you receive health insurance through a state program and get into a car accident, that state program will pay your medical bills.

As with health insurance, Medicare and any state program affiliated with Medicaid will typically be entitled to reimbursement for bills paid related to your car accident injuries, if you end up receiving an insurance settlement or court award over the accident.

Does Workers' Compensation Apply to Car Accident Injuries?

If you get hurt in a work-related car accident, your employer's workers' compensation insurer will pay all of your medical bills. In a work-related accident, you are not required to pay any money toward your medical bills. You do not have to pay any medical bills or deductibles. Further, many states require the workers' compensation insurer to reimburse you for transportation expenses (mileage, tolls, and parking) for all of your travel to and from your medical appointments.

Medical Bills Are a Component of Your "Damages" In a Car Accident Claim

So far we've talked about how you can get your medical bills paid when you've been injured in a car accident. But the cost of medical care necessary to treat your crash related injuries will also play a big part in determining the value of any claim you end up making over the accident. For example, if you:

  • file an insurance claim with the at-fault driver's insurance company, or
  • file a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver in court.

In either situation, in putting a dollar value on your case, the insurance adjuster, attorneys, even a jury (in the rare event that your lawsuit goes to trial) will put a fair amount of weight on the nature and extent of medical care necessary to treat your car accident injuries. This makes up a big component of your compensable losses ("damages" in the language of the law, along with your:

  • lost wages, time missed at work, and other income-related losses (including diminished earning capacity for long-term injuries or disability)
  • physical and mental pain and suffering resulting from the accident, your injuries, and necessary medical treatment
  • vehicle damage, and
  • any other provable losses resulting from the car accident.

As we touched on above, if you receive any kind of insurance settlement or court judgment in your favor, your health insurance company or another entity who paid your car accident-related medical bills might be entitled to reimbursement out of those proceeds.

Getting Help After a Car Accident

After a car accident, figuring out how to pay your crash-related medical bills may only be the first step toward making things right. That's especially true if your injuries are serious and it looks like someone else is at fault for the car accident. In most instances, putting your car accident case in the hands of an experienced legal professional is the best way to ensure a fair result.

Learn more about finding and hiring the right car accident lawyer. You can also use the tools right on this page to connect with a car accident lawyer in your area.

Car Accident Claim Tool

Have you been in a car accident?

Take our free car accident quiz to find out if you're likely to get a settlement.

Make the Most of Your Claim
Get the compensation you deserve.
We've helped 215 clients find attorneys today.
There was a problem with the submission. Please refresh the page and try again
Full Name is required
Email is required
Please enter a valid Email
Phone Number is required
Please enter a valid Phone Number
Zip Code is required
Please add a valid Zip Code
Please enter a valid Case Description
Description is required

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you