If you recently suffered injuries in an auto accident, you might be wondering how you are going to pay your accident-related bills. Your car may need repairs, you may have medical bills associated with your injuries, and you might even lack income if your injuries prevent you from working.
It’s hard to recover from physical and emotional injuries while these financial concerns are looming. Let a car accident lawyer help you during this difficult time. Their job is to ensure that those liable for your damages are the ones who compensate you.
Damages in a California Car Accident
Even a minor car accident can lead to severe damage to your vehicle, significant medical expenses, and other incidental losses. Personal injury law refers to these losses as “damages,” and your compensation after a car accident is should take them into account. Your car accident lawyer will explain there are two main types of damages—economic and non-economic.
Economic damages are your financial losses. They are easy to calculate and have a clear monetary value. Also known as special damages, they include expenses such as:
- Past and future medical bills (out of pocket and paid by health insurers)
- Lost wages (past and future)
- Property damage
- Other costs or out of pocket expenses associated with the car accident
Non-economic damages, on the other hand, are more subjective and do not have a determined value. Common non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering
- Disability or disfigurement
- Emotional distress
- Loss of companionship or consortium
- Loss of enjoyment of life
When you hire a car accident attorney, he or she can help you identify the damages that apply in your specific situation and craft a strategy to seek the compensation you deserve.
Who Pays Your Medical Bills After an Auto Accident in California?
It doesn’t take long for medical bills to start showing up in your mailbox after getting medical care for car accident injuries. Depending on the severity of your injuries, your bills could be in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, or even higher. Medical expenses can place a considerable burden on you and your family while you are trying to recover. As a car accident victim, you’re likely anxious to find out who will pay your medical bills and how they will pay them. Fortunately, an attorney can help you determine who you may be able to recover against and how much compensation is appropriate.
California’s Fault Auto Accident Laws
When it comes to car insurance, California is a “fault state.” Instead of filing a claim on your own insurance policy, as injured individuals in no-fault states do, you have a few options.
When you are involved in an accident with another driver, the at-fault driver is liable for paying for your damages. This means that you have three ways to pursue compensation for your injuries:
- File a claim with your own insurance company, provided you have your own coverage. Your carrier may cover you up to your policy limits, and your insurance company might seek reimbursement through the at-fault driver’s insurance company. This is often the best option for seeking recovery of damage to your vehicle and only way to seek compensation for injuries if you have an uninsured/underinsured motorist policy that applies to the claim.
- File a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company through their liability coverage. Their carrier will pay up to applicable limits of the at-fault driver’s policy which may not cover all of your damages. When the policy is not big enough you can seek additional compensation directly from the responsible driver and/or file a claim with your own auto insurance if you have an uninsured/underinsured policy.
- File a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver. This is often the best option for injury accident victims when it comes to getting the full compensation they deserve. An experienced car accident attorney can help guide you in this process and tell you which option is best for your case..
Typically, the way victims recover is by filing a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company and reaching a settlement agreement. If the insurance company refuses to make an adequate settlement offer, victims may then choose to file a lawsuit.
Minimum Auto Insurance Requirements
California law requires that every driver carry a minimum of $15,000 in liability coverage for injury or death to one person and a total of $30,000 in coverage for the injury or death of more than one person. This coverage is in place to pay for any harm they cause others, not to pay for their own damages.
You can file a claim with the other driver’s car insurance, but keep in mind that you may not receive full compensation due to various insurance company tactics and limited policy limits. For example, if your medical bills totaled $35,000 and the other driver only had the minimum coverage, you could only receive up to $15,000 from their insurance company.
In general, you will need to pay for your medical bills as they start to arrive. Alternatively, you might be able to have them billed through your medical insurance coverage. However, you will still be responsible for any copays or deductibles. Unfortunately, you cannot pass these bills onto the at-fault party or their insurance company as they come.
Med Pay Coverage
If you have med pay coverage on your auto policy, you can use it to help pay your medical bills, but most policy limits are not more than $10,000. If you do use your medical insurance, the auto insurance company can request reimbursement of the amount they paid from your final settlement with the responsible driver.
Filing a Lawsuit
If the insurance company does not make an adequate settlement offer, you can file a lawsuit to recover for your losses. In a lawsuit, a judgment may exceed the policy limits of the at-fault party’s policy, but it may be difficult to collect if the responsible driver has no money or assets.
Paying for Property Damages
Drivers in California are also required to carry a minimum of $5,000 for property damage to others. It applies to damages the insured driver causes to other cars, objects, or structures with their vehicle. If the damages to your vehicle exceed the minimum amount of the other driver’s coverage, you can file a claim to use your collision coverage, if you have it.
Injured in an Accident? An Experienced Car Accident Lawyer Can Help
After an injury accident, you likely have many questions. Probably one of the most pressing ones is how you will pay for your medical bills and property damage. You don’t have to handle this alone. Contact Bohn & Fletcher, LLP car accident attorneys to answer your questions and learn the next steps that you should take.
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