March 27, 2024 | Article by Matt Clark

Medical expenses can add up quickly if you’re injured in a motor vehicle accident. In Kern County, the average cost of an ambulance ride alone is over $3,000. And if you have serious injuries, costs can easily add up to hundreds of thousands.

So, it’s natural to wonder, “Who covers my injuries in a car accident?”

There are several common ways your medical bills may be covered after an auto accident in California, including:

If you are not at fault:

Regardless of who is at fault:

  • Medical payment coverage on your auto insurance policy
  • Your health insurance
  • Out-of-pocket payments

We cover the most common scenarios involving these payment sources below.

Scenario 1: You’re Injured in a Crash Caused by Another Driver

California is an at-fault state for auto accidents—meaning the driver who causes the accident is responsible (or liable) for the resulting costs, including property damage and treatment for injuries. So, if you sustain serious injuries in an accident caused by another driver, that driver is required to cover the cost of your medical treatment.

Here’s how it works.

First, you file an insurance claim against the responsible driver’s bodily injury coverage. The insurer will investigate the claim first, so it may take some time before you receive any payments.

In the meantime, you can pay for your medical care in three ways:

  1. Use your health insurance.
  2. Use your own funds.
  3. Use the medical payments coverage on your car insurance policy.

Medical payments (or MedPay) is an optional coverage that pays medical bills for you and your passengers in any accident. You can use MedPay to pay your health insurance deductible. If you don’t have health insurance, you can use MedPay until your claim is approved (instead of paying out of pocket). 

Once your claim is approved, the at-fault driver’s insurance company will reimburse whoever has paid to treat your injuries—you and/or your insurance carriers.

Sometimes, the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance coverage, or their bodily liability coverage limits (the most their policy will pay) are less than the cost of your medical treatment. If that’s the case, you can use your policy’s uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage to pay your medical expenses.

If you have serious injuries, insurance coverage may not compensate you adequately. For example, you may lose income as you recover because you must miss time from work. Or, you may have a temporary or permanent disability. 

In any injury accident—but especially when serious injuries are involved—you may consider filing a lawsuit against the at-fault driver directly to recover lost wages or compensation for pain and suffering.

Scenario 2: You’re Injured in a Crash That You Caused

If you were at fault in the car accident that caused your injuries, you have fewer options for paying your medical bills. You can:

  • Use your health insurance.
  • Pay out of pocket.
  • File a claim with your own insurance company to use medical payment coverage.

Scenario 3: You’re Partly at Fault in the Crash That Caused Your Injuries

California is an at-fault state for car accidents, but California law recognizes that sometimes more than one driver is to blame for a crash. Under this legal principle—called pure comparative fault—you can receive compensation for your injuries as long as you aren’t 100% at fault for an accident.

Following an auto accident, the insurance companies for the drivers involved investigate. Based on the investigation, the insurers assign each driver a percentage of fault for the crash.

Suppose you are 60% at fault in an accident. The other driver’s insurance company can still compensate you. However, you can only collect 40% of what you would have received if you were not at fault at all. For example, if your medical bills are $10,000, you will only be reimbursed $4,000.

Bakersfield Personal Injury Lawyers

If you are injured in a car accident that’s not your fault, getting reimbursed for your medical expenses should be straightforward. But injury accident cases are often complex. 

The experienced car accident lawyers at Chain | Cohn | Clark can help you file an insurance claim, investigate and compile evidence, negotiate with insurance companies, and—if necessary—pursue a claim in court.

Contact us today for a free consultation.