UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020
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Anytime you’re involved in a collision or a crash, there is always the chance that you’ll be injured, even if you drive a car that is considered safe. And health care in the United States isn’t cheap, especially if you suffer significant injuries. The cost of medical care continues to rise, and it’s reaching astronomical heights.
We’re reminded of a five year old study that the state of Montana conducted in regards to the success of their “Buckle Up Montana” program. It found that for those significantly injured in car crashes, the average hospital charge of someone that wasn’t wearing a seat belt was $52,993. Those who were wearing their seat belt did fare better, with an average healthcare expense of $36,420. Costs like these make it impossible for us to ever recommend a driver simply select minimum car insurance coverage.
So, are your medical bills covered after a crash?
This isn’t an easy question that we can quickly dispense with an answer of “yes” or “no.” As with all complicated questions, the answer is “it depends.” And the “it depends” goes to the heart of a number of issues, including what sort of coverage you’ve purchased from your auto insurer, where you live, and even who was at fault for the crash. So let’s break it down by each of those issues.
Car insurance is regulated on a state-by-state basis, and there are two basic types of auto insurance systems employed in all fifty states: “no fault” and “at fault.” At fault systems are normally referred to as “tort-based.” This creates a wealth of confusion for consumers. Add in other coverages such as health insurance carried from other places, and it all can become a quagmire.
Do you have private health insurance?
Costs arising from car crashes are generally covered by health insurance polices that individuals carry from their place of employment or other sources. However, these insurance companies will defer payment until auto insurance options are exhausted, regardless of which type of state you live in. This is called a “notice of subrogation.” It isn’t that your healthcare insurer won’t cover your expenses, but they’ll ensure other options come into play and are exhausted first.
If you live in a no-fault insurance state
Drivers in no-fault states, which include: Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Utah and the District of Columbia, will most likely have their medical costs arising from a crash covered.
Because drivers in no-fault states are responsible for their own damages and their own medical bills, they’re required to purchase a coverage known as personal injury protection (PIP). The whole point of PIP coverage is to ensure a driver’s medical bills are covered, regardless of who was at fault for the crash.
In extreme circumstances, such as crashes that feature exceptionally high medical bills resulting from injuries, fault may be adjudicated, leaving the “at-fault” party on the hook for the medical bills of the other driver. These incidents involve serious financial thresholds that go beyond the coverage amounts of a driver’s policy.
If you live in a tort-based state
For drivers in tort-based states, you’ll need to carry Medical Payments coverage. MedPay is an optional coverage that pays for medical expenses incurred by you, your family members and/or your passengers when injured in an accident, regardless of whose fault it is. One bonus of this coverage is that it may also extend to you and your family members, if you are injured as a passenger or as a pedestrian.
But what if it wasn’t my fault?
In tort states, the at-fault driver would be responsible for other driver’s medical expenses that resulted from injuries arising from the crash. This works well, as long as the at-fault driver has insurance with a sufficient amount of coverage. Two products you may wish to consider would be uninsured motorist and underinsured motorist bodily injury coverage. They’ll make up for drivers that don’t have coverage that leaves you hanging. Beyond this, make sure your policy covers injuries with a careful read of the policy declaration page.
What if my medicals bills aren’t covered?
If you don’t have the correct coverage to ensure you won’t be on the hook for medical bills, take a few minutes to talk to your agent or insurance company. No time like the present to get the car insurance coverage that is right for you.