A motorcycle accident can be serious and put someone out of commission for a while. One of the things that a victim of an accident has to do is deal with the rising medical bills for all the treatment. Washington and federal law require that a hospital with a Trauma Center has to treat any incoming patient and keep giving them care until they are medically stable and are no longer in danger of dying.
However, the patient is still on the hook for all the medical bills, and this can mount up very fast.
Who Pays Hospital and Doctor Bills if I have Medical Insurance?
Most hospitals in Washington state will ask if the injuries to the patient were caused by another driver with insurance. If you answer yes, most of the time they will not bill your health insurance company, rather they will get the bills paid for by the insurance company for the at-fault driver.
However, sometimes the hospital doesn’t ask or asks but it’s uncertain who was at fault, or maybe was told incorrectly that it was the other driver’s fault and not the patient’s. In these cases, the patient will use their medical insurance to pay the hospital and subsequent medical providers.
Do I Have to Pay Them Back?
Under Washington law, in cases where the hospital uses your health insurance even though you were in an accident due to someone else’s fault, then the insurance company has a right to get that money back from the at-fault driver.
This is called subrogation, which simply means to substitute one person for another when a debt is owed. It works like this: You get injured and owe the hospital $10,000 for medical bills, and this is paid for by your health insurance.
Then the person who is responsible for the accident pays (usually through their insurance company) $20,000 to cover all the damages for the injury, and under subrogation law, your health insurance company can be substituted as a recipient of the funds paid from the personal injury claim and get the $10,000 they paid for your medical bills.
Frequently Asked Subrogation Questions
Subrogation can get tricky and complicated and some of the most often asked questions about it are:
Do I have to pay all of the medical bills back?
Typically, there are co-pays that you have paid as well as deductibles. These will be deducted from the amount of the medical bills owed to the insurance company.
Can I just keep the money and not pay the insurance money back?
Usually no. By Washington state law (RCW 60.44) a lien in favor of any healthcare provider and the health insurance company is created once the medical service is provided. When the settlement money comes in, the attorneys for both sides will make sure the medical bills get paid to whoever they are owed. If not, the hospital or the insurance company that paid the bills can come after the lawyers for the money.
What if there’s not enough money to pay for all medical bills and have any left for my attorney and me?
A sad reality is that if the driver has the minimum $25,000 coverage for one person for bodily injury ($50,000 cap for each accident) required under Washington law, it may not even cover all the medical bills. Then even if it does, after the fees, court costs and medical liens, sometimes the victim is left with little money.
A good attorney won’t let this happen if possible. In almost all accidents, the insurance company for the at-fault driver will settle out of court. An experienced attorney is going to have a full picture of any liens and outstanding medical bills before the settlement.
Also, before the settlement, the attorney will negotiate with anyone that has a right to medical bill payments for a lesser amount and will make sure that there is some left for the client after all the liens and bills are taken care of.
What if there are future medical bills after my settlement?
Once the claim is either settled or decided in court, then any medical bills at that point will be paid for by the patient. If the patient has medical insurance, then the insurance company will pay the bills according to the terms of the policy.
An experienced attorney will know when to settle a case, early or later, to the benefit of the client.
If I don’t have an attorney, won’t that mean more money for me?
You certainly have the right to go it alone, but any attorney worth their salt will be able to take in all considerations in a personal injury case and do what’s best for the client which includes getting the client the most in his or her pocket allowed by the law.
Without the benefit of a good attorney, the injured victim is at the mercy of all the lien holders, other attorneys for other victims, the attorneys for the insurance company and maybe even the hospital or other medical service providers.
This won’t be the first time they are handling a case as this is what they do for a living. So you need the same sort of experience and knowledge of the law and the system as these people.
Contact a Motorcycle Accident Lawyer.
Established in Spokane in 1948, Crary, Clark, Domanico, & Chuang, P.S. is committed to providing our clients with the absolute highest quality legal representation. If our Spokane Motorcycle Accident Lawyers represent you for your accident case, you have our assurance that we will use our absolute best efforts to win your case. Contact us after any accident resulting in a serious injury for a free, confidential consultation and case evaluation. We will only offer you advice which is in your best interest.