Who Pays Medical Bills in a Car Accident?

By July 19, 2023July 26th, 2023Car Accidents

Victims often deal with piling medical bills, prolonged recovery periods, and financial burdens associated with lost earnings and medical treatment after a car accident. One of the biggest concerns is figuring out who will pay those escalating medical expenses.

Usually, you need to pay those bills. The at-fault party, however, may need to compensate you for them and other damages.

A car accident lawyer can explain the responsibility for medical bills after a car accident and the insurance company’s role in covering those costs. Then your lawyer can navigate this complex process and recover the compensation you deserve for your injuries.


When a car accident occurs, the governing laws and regulations determining who will pay for the medical bills can vary significantly depending on the jurisdiction in which the accident occurred. Each state has its unique laws and procedures related to car accidents and the responsibility of the involved parties to pay for damages, including medical expenses.

Laws and Regulations Governing Car Accidents and Medical Bill Payments

The specific laws applicable to a car accident can range from statutes concerning fault and no-fault systems to regulations regarding insurance coverage and policy limits. The legal process of determining liability and the deadlines for filing personal injury claims also differ by jurisdiction.

As each state has laws and regulations, you need a local car accident lawyer who understands the specific rules governing your car accident. This knowledge helps you understand your rights, your insurance company’s responsibilities, and the steps you need to take to recover compensation for your medical bills. 

A lawyer familiar with the applicable laws in your jurisdiction can improve your chances of navigating the complex legal process involved in car accident claims, which may include negotiations with insurance companies, settlements, and lawsuits.

Who Pays Medical Bills in a Car Accident

Fault vs. No-fault States

At-fault and no-fault systems determine who pays for medical bills following a car accident. These systems differ in assigning responsibility for an accident and how insurance companies pay for medical expenses.

At-fault System

In a fault-based system, the driver responsible for causing the accident is also responsible for paying the injured party’s medical bills. The at-fault driver’s insurance company typically covers these expenses up to the limits of the driver’s insurance policy.

No-fault System

In a no-fault system, each driver’s insurance company pays for their policyholder’s medical bills, regardless of who caused the accident. This means your insurance company would cover your medical expenses even if you bore no fault for the accident.

Fault-based vs. No-fault Systems

While fault-based systems focus on determining who caused the accident and assigning financial responsibility, no-fault systems simplify the process by having each driver’s insurance company cover their policyholder’s medical bills. 

The no-fault approach can speed up receiving compensation for medical expenses, as it does not require establishing fault before any payments. It may, however, limit the ability to pursue additional compensation through lawsuits or settlements, depending on the laws and regulations in the specific no-fault state.

Insurance Coverage

Various types of insurance coverage can come into play when dealing with medical bills resulting from a car accident. Understanding coverage types helps determine which insurance policy will cover your medical expenses.

Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Coverage

PIP coverage is a type of no-fault insurance that pays for your medical expenses, regardless of who was at fault for the accident. It is mandatory in some states and optional in others. PIP coverage can also extend to lost earnings, funeral expenses, and other related costs.

Medical Payments Coverage (MedPay)

MedPay is an optional insurance coverage for medical expenses incurred because of a car accident, regardless of fault. It can cover the costs for you, your passengers, or any family members driving the insured vehicle during the accident. MedPay has lower coverage limits than PIP and excludes non-medical expenses.

Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Coverage

Uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage protects if you are involved in an accident with an uninsured driver or do not have enough insurance to cover your medical expenses. This coverage can help you recover compensation if the at-fault driver’s insurance is insufficient or nonexistent.

How Insurance Coverage Affects the Payment of Medical Bills

The type of insurance coverage in a car accident will affect who pays the medical bills. Depending on the available coverages and the state where the accident occurred, the responsibility for paying medical bills may fall on the at-fault driver’s insurance company, your own insurance company, or a combination of both.

Understanding your insurance and the coverages of other drivers involved in an accident is vital in determining who will pay your medical bills and how much compensation you can expect.

Policy Limits

Insurance policy limits play a part in determining the amount of compensation available for medical bills in a car accident. Knowing how policy limits work can help you understand what coverage to expect and what steps to take if your bills exceed these limits.

Policy limits determine the maximum amount an insurance company must pay for a specific claim. Your insurance policy sets these limits when purchased and can vary depending on the coverage type and the choices you make when selecting your policy. If you have a policy with a $25,000 limit for bodily injury liability coverage, for example, that would be the maximum amount your insurer would pay for another person’s medical bills if you were at fault for a car accident.

How Policy Limits Affect the Payment of Medical Bills

If an injured party’s medical bills exceed the at-fault driver’s insurance policy limits, the injured party may need additional compensation from other sources. This process could include using their insurance coverage, such as uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage or MedPay, or pursuing legal action against the at-fault driver to recover the remaining expenses.


Liability determines who pays for medical bills in a car accident. A proper assessment of fault and contribution to the accident will influence which party’s insurance company covers the medical expenses.

Liability is the basis for holding the at-fault party responsible for the damages caused in a car accident. You need a lawyer to identify the liable party or parties to recover compensation for your medical bills and other damages resulting from the accident.

Determining Fault and Contribution

Determining fault in a car accident involves assessing the actions and decisions of the drivers involved and any external factors that may have contributed to the accident.

This process consists of gathering evidence, including witness statements, police reports, and expert analysis. Multiple parties sometimes share liability for the accident, further complicating determining who pays for medical expenses.

Proving Negligence

The injured party must prove the at-fault driver’s negligence when establishing liability for medical bills in a car accident.

Negligence is a legal concept that involves demonstrating that the at-fault driver:

  • Owed a duty of care to the injured party—driving safely and following traffic laws, for example.
  • Breached that duty of care—such as by speeding, driving drunk, or running a red light.
  • Directly caused the accident as a result of the breach of duty of care.
  • Caused quantifiable damages to the injured party—including medical expenses and lost earnings.

Proving negligence can be a complex process, often requiring the services of a personal injury lawyer who can present a persuasive case to the insurance companies or in court.

Comparative or Contributory Negligence

Depending on the jurisdiction, understanding the concepts of comparative and contributory negligence is vital as they influence the amount of compensation available for medical bills after a car accident. Both systems assess the injured party’s contribution to the accident and affect the recovery of damages accordingly.

Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations is critical to consider when pursuing compensation for medical bills after a car accident. This legal principle establishes a specific time frame for injured parties to file a personal injury claim to recover compensation for their damages.

Filing a claim within the statute of limitations is crucial to ensure you retain the right to pursue compensation for your medical bills and other damages arising from the car accident. Failure to file a claim within the prescribed time limit will generally result in the forfeiture of your rights to recover compensation for your injuries.

If you fail to file a personal injury claim within the statute of limitations, the court will typically dismiss your case. Such a judgment will leave you unable to recover compensation for your medical bills and other damages. Consult a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible following a car accident to ensure that you file your claim within the statute of limitations and maximize your chances of recovering compensation for your injuries.


Subrogation is a legal concept that may come into play when determining who pays for medical bills after a car accident. This process involves the transfer of one party’s rights to another party, typically involving insurance companies, to recoup payments made on behalf of the injured party.

Subrogation occurs when an insurance company pays for its policyholder’s medical bills and then seeks to recover those payments from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. The injured party’s insurance company essentially steps into the shoes of the injured party and has the right to seek reimbursement from the at-fault party or their insurer.

How Subrogation Affects the Payment of Medical Bills

Subrogation can affect the payment of medical bills in several ways:

  • Faster payment of medical bills: The injured party’s insurance company may pay for their medical expenses upfront, allowing you to receive timely medical treatment without waiting for their claim resolution with the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
  • Reimbursement to the injured party’s insurer: If the injured party’s insurance company pays for the medical bills, they will seek reimbursement from the at-fault driver or insurance company through subrogation.
  • Influence on settlement negotiations: that an insurance company has paid or may pay for the injured party’s medical bills through subrogation can affect settlement negotiations with the at-fault driver’s insurance company.

If you have additional questions about how subrogation affects medical bill payment, consult a personal injury attorney.

Examples of Subrogation

Subrogation commonly occurs in the following circumstances:

  • In no-fault states, the injured party’s insurance company will typically pay for their medical bills through PIP coverage and then seek reimbursement from the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
  • If the at-fault driver has no insurance or inadequate coverage, the injured party’s uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage may pay for their medical bills. The victim’s insurance company will then pursue subrogation against the at-fault driver.
  • Health insurance providers may pay for the injured party’s medical bills in some cases and seek reimbursement through subrogation from the at-fault driver’s insurance company.

Your lawyer can explain subrogation and how it affects the payment of medical bills after a car accident.

Settlements and Lawsuits

You can resolve medical bill payments through settlements or lawsuits in many car accident cases. Both methods can lead to compensation for medical expenses, depending on the cases’ circumstances and the parties involved.

Negotiating with the at-fault driver’s insurance company is often the first step toward a settlement that covers medical bills. The process involves presenting evidence, such as medical records and bills, to demonstrate the extent of the injuries and the related costs. Skilled negotiation by a personal injury attorney can result in a fair settlement without going to court.

Filing a Lawsuit to Recover Compensation for Medical Expenses

When there is no settlement, the injured party may file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver to recover compensation for medical bills and other damages. This process involves several key steps:

Process of Filing a Lawsuit

A complainant files a claim outlining the allegations and damages with the appropriate court. The at-fault driver— now the defendant— will then have an opportunity to respond by filing an answer. Both parties will engage in a discovery process involving exchanging information, documents, and witness testimony.

Potential Outcomes of a Lawsuit

A trial may ultimately resolve a lawsuit, and the case will proceed. A judge or jury will decide on the defendant’s liability and determine the appropriate compensation for the plaintiff. Case resolution may occur through a pretrial settlement or other dispute resolution mechanism, such as mediation or arbitration.

Pursuing a settlement or a lawsuit can be a complex and time-consuming process. The assistance of an experienced personal injury lawyer can ensure that the injured party receives the best possible outcome, whether through a negotiated settlement or a successful lawsuit.

Out of Pocket Expenses

The injured party may have to pay out-of-pocket medical bills because insurance coverage is insufficient or because the at-fault driver’s insurance company refuses to pay the full amount. A lawyer can explain when out-of-pocket expenses may arise and how to seek reimbursement.

Seeking Reimbursement

If the injured party has paid for medical bills out-of-pocket, they can seek reimbursement from the at-fault driver or their insurance company through a settlement or a lawsuit. A personal injury lawyer can pursue a claim to recover these expenses.

Get Assistance From an Atlanta Personal Injury Attorney

Car Accident Lawyer, Jean Paul Brunache

Who pays for medical bills in a car accident involves considering numerous factors, such as jurisdiction, the fault-based or no-fault system in place, available insurance coverage, policy limits, liability, and negligence.

The injured party may encounter situations involving comparative or contributory negligence, the statute of limitations, subrogation, and settlements or lawsuits, which can also affect the payment method of medical bills.

Comprehending who is responsible for medical bills in a car accident is crucial for your financial well-being and peace of mind. By understanding and navigating the process with the help of a personal injury lawyer, you can receive the support and compensation necessary to recover and move forward after a car accident.