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Who Pays Your Medical Bills After a Car Accident in Alabama?

Offered by Dean Waite & Associates LLC

Car accidents may be over in a moment, but the physical and mental damage of the wreck can affect you for the rest of your life. Your car accident injuries may require surgery, physical therapy, medication, and other treatment. That means quite a lot of medical bills, often in the tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.

If the car accident wasn’t your fault, you shouldn’t be on the hook for those medical expenses. However, navigating the system and getting your medical bills paid can be a challenging process, one that is best faced with an experienced Alabama car accident lawyer on your side.

Alabama is a “fault” state, so the at-fault driver is ultimately responsible

Like most states, Alabama uses a “fault” or “at-fault” car insurance system. This means the person who caused your accident (and by extension, their insurance company) is responsible for paying your medical bills and other costs resulting from your accident. Additional bills and expenses can include lost wages and pain and suffering.

Alabama law requires all motorists to carry at least $25,000 in bodily injury liability insurance per person and $50,000 for all bodily injuries per accident, with the option to purchase additional car insurance.

However, just because this coverage is supposed to be available often doesn’t mean it’s easy to get your medical bills paid. The insurance company may dispute the extent of your injuries or whether your treatment is reasonable and necessary. The insurance company may also dispute fault for the accident.

In addition, Alabama is a contributory negligence state. That means if you are even partially at fault, the other driver’s insurance generally doesn’t have to pay. An experienced car accident lawyer can deal with the insurance company on your behalf and fight to recover the full cost of your medical bills.

What if the other driver doesn’t have insurance?

One situation where it can be tough to get your medical bills paid is if the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance, or doesn’t have enough car insurance. Legally, you can still pursue compensation from their assets, but practically speaking, most uninsured motorists don’t have assets to recover.

If you have uninsured and underinsured motorist protection (UIM) on your insurance policy, you can file a claim with your own insurance company to stand in for the other driver’s insurance and get your medical bills paid, up to the UIM policy limit. If the other driver has insurance, but not enough to cover the full cost of the accident (underinsured), then your UIM coverage likewise kicks in to cover the difference, up to the policy limit.

In Alabama, you aren’t required to have this insurance coverage, but the insurance company is required to offer it to you, and you have to explicitly decline it if you don’t want it. UM also covers you if you are hit by a hit-and-run driver who is never found (and is thus uninsured by default).

Other types of insurance that can apply to your medical bills

Medical payments coverage (MedPay) is an optional type of car insurance you can carry on your own policy that covers medical expenses after a car accident for you, other named drivers on your policy, and any passengers in your vehicle. MedPay is a type of no-fault insurance, meaning it kicks in regardless of who caused the accident. If you have this insurance, it’s a great way to get your medical bills paid in the interim before your case is resolved.

You may also be able to get your medical bills paid by your personal health insurance. Note that if you go through either MedPay or your health insurance, and the other driver’s insurance company ultimately pays up, then you may have to reimburse your insurance company for the portion they paid (this is called subrogation). However, an attorney may be able to negotiate with your insurance company to waive subrogation and put more money in your pocket.

Your attorney may be able to negotiate a “treat now, pay later” agreement

If you don’t have MedPay or health insurance available to pay your medical bills (and the other driver’s insurance company hasn’t paid up yet) then your lawyer may be able to negotiate an attorney’s medical lien with your healthcare provider. This is essentially an arrangement with your doctor where you get treatment now, and your healthcare provider will be paid out of your settlement or verdict once your civil case is resolved.

Alabama law allows your hospital to place an automatic lien on your injury settlement if they treated you for crash-related injuries. This essentially means the hospital gets paid first when you receive a settlement, verdict, judgment or award. Again, an attorney may be able to negotiate with the hospital on your behalf so you can keep more of your settlement.

How a car accident lawyer can help you get your medical bills paid

When you’re injured in a car accident, hiring an attorney to negotiate your car accident injury claim for medical expenses is important for several reasons. First, an attorney can investigate and uncover all possible sources of compensation, and where applicable, coordinate insurance policies to ensure you have the maximum possible coverage for your medical bills and other expenses. An attorney can also negotiate with both the insurance companies and healthcare providers on your behalf, which protects your financial interests while you focus on following your doctor’s orders and getting better.

Perhaps most importantly, the right attorney can work with you to obtain a final settlement or verdict that covers the full, long-term cost of your injuries, including both past and future medical bills. For example, if your injury is likely to require future surgery, the cost of that surgery should be included in your settlement. Remember, once your case settles, that’s it. You can’t go back and ask for more money, even if your medical expenses turn out to be higher than anticipated. The right lawyer can make sure the full cost of your medical treatment is covered by your settlement so you aren’t stuck paying medical bills out of pocket or taking on medical debt.

The sooner you get legal representation, the sooner you can focus on healing. If you’ve been hurt in a car wreck, talk to an experienced Alabama car accident attorney in your area today.

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Founded by attorney Dean Waite, our Mobile, Alabama law firm helps people injured in accidents caused by someone else’s reckless or negligent behavior. We handle personal injury c...