Question

Who pays my medical bills for injuries in a car accident in Arizona?

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Answered by: Douglas J. Newborn

Located in Tucson, AZDoug Newborn Law Firm PLLC

Tucson, AZ
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If you were injured through the fault of another driver, there are several options in Arizona to help you pay your medical bills.  One important source of funds (or delayed funds to be more specific) are medical liens, which enable a medical provider to treat you without demanding money for their services up front. 

Your own health insurance, the state AHCCCS program, and auto insurance coverage are also potential sources of payment.  The at-fault driver's auto insurance should eventually pay an amount in a settlement that should cover all your medical bills (and then some), but if your auto insurance coverage includes medical payments (MedPay), and uninsured/underinsured (UM/UIM) coverage, those will provide for other sources of funds to pay your medical bills. 

How Medical Liens Work 

The good news is that many medical providers will treat you up front and wait to get paid until your case settles. In addition to doctors, this includes chiropractors, physical therapists, and others who assist with your care and recovery after a car crash.  There's an entire medical sub-industry that "treats on a lien," so make sure the first medical professional you visit regarding your injury knows about these options that may be available to you.  

With liens, the medical providers get paid by asserting a lien against the compensation you'll eventually get from the at-fault driver's insurance company. A hospital has to record such a lien within a certain amount of time with the County Recorder for the County that the treatment was done in. 

The details of how liens work can get complicated and it depends whether your provider was an "in network provider" or an "out of network provider" (as out of network providers can charge more money than in network providers, which may lead to "balance billing").  This is one of the reasons why it is important to hire the right personal injury attorney to help you reduce the amount that's owed on the lien and to make sure all the properly recorded liens are found and dealt with. 

Your Own Health Insurance

All insurance plans are unique as some of large copays or deductibles that have to be paid by you up front.  Consequently, some people don’t want to use their own health insurance after being injured by another person’s fault.  However, if you have good health insurance, you should use it as you'll likely be referred to in network providers for follow on care and your total medical bills will be lower if you use your own health insurance to pay some of the total cost down. 

With that said, in some cases, your health insurance company may try to get reimbursed for the money it paid to the hospital or medical provider (called “subrogation”).  This is another good reason to get a strong attorney on your side, to help you protect your interests while insurance companies – yours and the at-fault driver’s auto insurer – are jousting. 

AHCCCS

If you're on AHCCCS, or if you're not on AHCCCS but don't have insurance and could qualify for AHCCCS, it's in your interest to tell the hospital to charge AHCCCS, as two major differences happen from what we've talked about above: (1) AHCCCS doesn't have to record a lien as their lien interest is protected under Arizona Law (you have to pay them back to the extent they paid the hospital, just like in the subrogation discussion above); and (2) the provider, whether it's an in network provider or out of network provider, cannot get more from you than AHCCCS paid.  

Auto Insurance Coverage 

Some people have additional coverage available through their auto insurance called MedPay. This can be used for immediate medical bills in case of an injury through someone else's fault. The exact amount of MedPay depends on your policy, but it is often $5,000. Generally, this money does not have to be reimbursed to your insurance company. 

For all injuries, seeking compensation from the at-fault driver (specifically the driver’s insurer) is important.

If the at-fault driver only has a minimum policy, however, your best hope for compensation will be from your own auto insurance coverage if you have MedPay, UM/UIM, and/or an umbrella policy. Sometimes, however, your own insurance company can be even more difficult to deal with than the at-fault driver’s company. 

Your Attorney’s Role 

You don’t want to end up in a situation where you are stuck with tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills after a motor vehicle collision or other injury where another is at fault. A skilled attorney can guide you through the process of recovery and help find all available sources of compensation. 

Lastly, remember that there is no formula for a full and fair settlement such as "three times medical bills" as every person's injury and situation is different and therefore each person requires their own personal approach to maximize their recovery.    

Disclaimer: The answer is intended to be for informational purposes only. It should not be relied on as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

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