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Who Should Pay for Medical Bills After Accident?

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    Who Should Pay for Medical Bills After Accident?

    Navigating the aftermath of an auto accident in Washington State can leave you facing not only physical and emotional recovery but also the daunting task of managing your medical bills. Understanding who is responsible for these expenses is crucial in ensuring you receive the care you need without undue financial strain.

    This guide outlines your options for covering medical costs in Seattle, emphasizing the roles of insurance, legal mechanisms, and state-specific requirements.

    Types of Medical Bills Resulting from a Car Accident

    Medical bills resulting from an accident encompass a wide range of healthcare expenses. These can vary greatly in scope and severity, depending on the nature of the accident and the injuries involved.

    • Emergency Medical Services: Costs from emergency medical services at the scene of the accident or transportation to a hospital (ambulance or helicopter).
    • Hospital Stays: Charges for any hospital stays, which can include room charges, surgeries, medical procedures, tests, and treatments.
    • Diagnostic Tests: Expenses for diagnostic tests such as X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, and blood tests to assess the extent of injuries.
    • Surgical Procedures: Costs associated with any surgical interventions required due to injuries sustained in the accident.
    • Medical Treatments: This can include both inpatient and outpatient treatments, physical therapy, rehabilitation services, and any specialized treatments needed for recovery.
    • Medications: Costs for prescription medications needed for pain management, infection prevention, or other conditions resulting from the accident.
    • Medical Devices: Expenses for any medical devices or equipment needed for recovery, such as braces, crutches, wheelchairs, or prosthetics.
    • Follow-Up and Long-Term Care: Costs associated with follow-up visits to healthcare providers, specialized rehabilitation, nursing care, or modifications to living spaces to accommodate disabilities.
    • Mental Health Services: Individuals may require counseling or therapy to address the psychological impact of the accident, such as PTSD, anxiety, or depression.

    Hiring a lawyer can give you the best chance to recover compensation and relieve the financial burdens you may be facing after your accident.

    How Do I Pay for Care After a Car Accident in Seattle?

    How Do I Pay for Care After a Car Accident in Seattle?

    Since Washington is a fault insurance state, the driver who caused the crash is financially liable for your injuries. There are two main paths to recover compensation: filing an insurance claim or pursuing a personal injury lawsuit.

    Both options can ultimately lead to a settlement, which reimburses you for your losses. This includes economic damages, like current and future medical bills. Resolving these cases can take time, potentially leaving you with outstanding medical bills while you wait. Here are some strategies to manage your medical costs in the interim:

    Personal Injury Protection (PIP)

    In Washington State, personal injury protection (PIP) is an extension of your auto insurance that covers medical expenses and lost wages.

    PIP is optional, but insurers are required to offer it, and you must formally decline in writing if you choose not to purchase it. Coverage typically comes in limits between $10,000 and $35,000 for medical expenses, providing immediate relief for accident-related healthcare costs without having to wait for fault determinations.

    In Washington, PIP coverage offers some valuable benefits. There are no copays or deductibles, and it normally pays 100% of medical bills. Your PIP plan might also pay you for lost wages if you miss more than two consecutive weeks of work.

    Private Health Insurance

    For those with private health insurance, this can serve as a primary source for covering medical expenses after an accident. In Washington, your health insurance policy can cover treatments and procedures related to injuries sustained.

    However, it's important to understand your policy's specifics, including deductibles, copays, and whether your provider has any right of reimbursement from any settlement you might receive later.

    Medical Liens in Lieu of Payment

    Washington State law allows healthcare providers to place a medical lien on any settlement or judgment a patient receives from an accident. This means that they agree to provide treatment without immediate payment on the condition that they are reimbursed directly from any future settlements.

    It's a useful arrangement when immediate funds are not available but does require careful management to ensure that your settlement covers all of your expenses.

    Do You Have to Pay Back Insurance If You Get a Settlement?

    Do You Have to Pay Back Insurance If You Get a Settlement?

    Yes. Subrogation is when your insurance company seeks reimbursement from the at-fault party's insurance after covering your initial medical expenses. In Washington, this can apply to both PIP and health insurance providers.

    After you receive a settlement, your insurers may assert their subrogation rights to recover the amounts they have paid on your behalf. This ensures that the burden of your medical costs ultimately falls on the party responsible for the accident, though it may involve negotiations between insurance companies to settle the exact amounts.

    What If I Don't Have Any Insurance?

    Without health insurance coverage or PIP, managing medical expenses can be challenging. It’s essential to collaborate with a legal professional to explore potential remedies. One viable approach could be to engage in discussions with the medical facility and commit to a written pledge.

    A legal representative can assist in crafting an appropriate agreement and advocate on your behalf with the healthcare provider. Their role is to ensure the terms are equitable and your access to premium medical treatment is secured.

    What If My Medical Bills Are More than My Settlement?

    If your medical bills exceed the amount of your settlement, it can be a challenging situation, but several steps and considerations might help address this issue:

    Negotiate Medical Bills

    One of the first steps you should consider is negotiating your medical bills. Hospitals and medical providers are sometimes willing to accept a lower payment, especially if paying in full would cause financial hardship. Your attorney will negotiate these bills on your behalf as part of your case.

    Payment Plans

    Payment Plans

    Many healthcare providers offer payment plans that allow you to pay off your bills over time rather than in a lump sum. This can make the financial burden more manageable.

    Financial Assistance Programs

    Some hospitals and clinics have financial assistance programs for patients who are unable to pay their bills due to financial hardship. You may need to apply and provide proof of your income and expenses to qualify.


    In extreme cases, if the debt from medical bills is insurmountable and cannot be negotiated down to a manageable level, bankruptcy might be considered as a last resort. Bankruptcy can eliminate some types of debt, but it has long-lasting effects on your credit and financial standing. It’s important to consult with a bankruptcy attorney to understand the implications fully.

    Get Help from a Professional Attorney

    Navigating the complexities of settlements and medical bills after an accident can be overwhelming, but you don't have to handle it alone. Lehmbecker Law is here to provide guidance and support every step of the way.

    Whether dealing with settlement allocations or negotiating with insurance companies, our personal injury attorneys are committed to achieving the best outcome for your situation. Our attorneys have more than 52 years of combined experience and can see you at either of our two locations in Federal Way and Bellevue.

    Contact Lehmbecker Law today, and let us assist you with any legal challenges you're facing.

    Contact Lehmbecker Law Today

    Our attorneys and paralegals have decades of experience to help ensure you get the proper treatment for your injuries.

    Request Free Consultation

    Larry A. Lehmbecker
    Firm Founder, Larry Lehmbecker, has nearly 40 year’s of experience fighting for the injured in Washington State. He is always eager to share his knowledge to help those in need.
    Contact Lehmbecker Law Today
    Our attorneys and paralegals have decades of experience to help ensure you get the proper treatment for your injuries
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    I received a settlement, but my medical bills still weren't paid — what should I do?

    If you received a settlement but your medical bills still weren't paid, you should first review the settlement agreement to understand how medical expenses were addressed. Then you can approach your medical providers to negotiate your remaining bills. If you have an attorney, this will be done automatically for you as part of your settlement so that your recovery is maximized.

    Do I have to pay my medical bills from my settlement?

    Yes. Typically, you need to pay your medical bills from your settlement. Settlements often include compensation specifically for medical expenses incurred due to an incident. However, the exact use of settlement funds can depend on the terms of the settlement agreement and negotiations with insurers or healthcare providers.

    Does Medicare cover auto accidents in Washington?

    Medicare does cover medical expenses resulting from auto accidents in Washington, as it does in other states. If Medicare pays for your treatment after an accident, they may seek reimbursement from any settlement or judgment you receive. Lehmbecker Law will negotiate your Medicare lien on your behalf.