After a car accident, major questions that every person asks include: Who is going to pay for the medical treatment? If insurance pays, do I have to pay them back? And if there is health insurance and auto insurance, which coverage should I use to pay these bills?
These questions can become complicated depending on the particular circumstances of your case. However, there are some rules and general guidelines that we would like to highlight.
In Colorado, a mandatory coverage that your car insurance must sell you is MedPay. MedPay is a coverage that pays reasonable, necessary and related medical charges related to injuries arising from a motor vehicle accident.
Colorado requires that every insurance policy sold include the option to have a minimum of $5000.00 worth of this coverage. Depending on the insurance company, there may be optional additional MedPay sold. We have seen MedPay coverage as high as $25,000. So, if you have $10,000 worth of MedPay coverage as part of your insurance policy on any vehicle in your household, then you or any other occupant would be entitled to submit up to $10,000 worth of medical bills related to your motor vehicle accident to your insurance company for payment. They, in turn, would be obligated to pay those charges as long as those charges are reasonable, necessary and related to injuries incurred in the subject accident.
B. Stacking of Medpay:
If you own a vehicle with auto insurance that has MedPay coverage of $5000.00, but on the night of the auto accident you happen to be a passenger in a vehicle with a $25,000 MedPay policy (your car is not involved in the crash at all), the law would permit you to submit up to $25,000 worth of bills to the insurance company that covers the car in which you were a passenger. But the great news is that you can also submit the additional $5,000 of medical charges to your own insurance for payment.
In other words, you as a passenger in a motor vehicle can STACK the MedPay coverage of the car you were occupying at the time of the crash; plus, you can stack your own purchased MedPay on your own auto insurance policy. You can stack policies of MedPay coverage for vehicles not involved in the accident at all! Be careful-even lawyers regularly mess this up and forget to consider stacking MedPay.
C. But I have health insurance. Why should I worry about MedPay?
This is a common question. The answer is that you paid for auto insurance that includes MedPay. You should get what you pay for.
Health insurance often requires the payment of a co-pay, a deductible, or it may have a total annual or lifetime cap on benefits. Medpay of at least $5,000 (often much more) is generally found in every auto policy, requires no payment of deductible, and it can be used in conjunction with health insurance to repay your out-of-pocket deductibles or co-pays. Additionally, it can often be stacked (if your lawyer is paying attention) with other MedPay policies. In short, MedPay can save you from paying copays and deductibles, and it can possibly prevent you from reaching lifetime or annual caps on health insurance coverage.
D. If I use my health insurance, do I have to pay it back?
If the above reasons have not convinced you to have and use MedPay, consider this:
If health insurance pays your medical bills related to your motor vehicle accident, you will likely be required to PAY THEM BACK from any money you get from the at-fault driver's insurance company. This is called the health insurance company's right of subrogation, and you will find enforceable language in nearly every health insurance contract.
However, under Colorado law, if auto insurance MedPay pays for your auto-related medical bills, THEY HAVE NO RIGHT TO COLLECT THAT MONEY BACK FROM YOU if you settle with the insurance for the at-fault driver. Note these laws changed recently and you will need a professional consultation to confirm that these rules apply to your particular case.
Basically, MedPay is readily available money in nearly every Colorado motor vehicle accident. If you know what to ask for and the extent of your rights to stack MedPay, you can pay for at least a majority of your medical expenses while incurring NO OBLIGATION TO PAY BACK ANYONE.
Please note that no insurance company openly reminds their insured (in a clear enough fashion) of the availability of this already paid for benefit. It's a good bet that you have at least one, if not many, available MedPay policies that can be stacked. Lawyers who fail to stop and listen to their clients and then ask proper follow up questions regularly miss out on getting their client's MedPay stacked and utilized properly.
If used correctly, MedPay can not only be a great payer source for medical bills but can overwhelmingly change the amount of a client's take-home money from an injury settlement.
Ask your lawyer to give you a complete MedPay analysis of your case. If they won't, or seem not to understand the question, consider calling us.
At Anderson, Hemmat & McQuinn, we understand this constantly changing area of the law and have utilized every advantage to help our clients recover to the fullest extent. Call us for a free consultation to see if we can help you too.