Medical Expenses After a Car Crash – Who Pays the Bill?
If you or family member have recently sustained injuries in a car crash, it is likely that you are now facing mounting medical expenses your household’s budget is not prepared for. Read on to learn what your options in this situation are.
Few life events can drain a person’s savings and put a heavy strain on their finances as quickly and as thoroughly as an unexpected hospital stay. Such a situation often arises following a car crash. In the aftermath of a motor vehicle accident, a person may find themselves in need of a treatment for the injuries sustained. Unfortunately, the victims of a car accident may require prolonged medical attention followed by an extensive period of rehabilitation. The associated costs are usually very high. For example, according to the data collected by one insurance information association, the average cost related to a bodily injury in 2013 amounted to $15,443 per accident. However, individual costs of medical care can vary greatly depending on the type and severity of an injury and can easily reach amounts much greater than the above average. In the case of a spinal cord injury, for example, the medical expenses in the first year after the injury average $198,000.
Of course, few households are prepared to bear sudden and unplanned expenses of this magnitude. Naturally then, a person who has sustained injuries in a car accident may ask themselves, “Who will pay the bill for my medical care?”. If a person was injured as a result of another driver’s negligent or reckless behavior, should they expect the at-fault driver to cover medical expenses on an ongoing basis? In this article, we will analyze how New Mexico state law regulates disputes in these matters.
New Mexico – A Non “No-Fault” State
When it comes to determining financial liability in car crashes, states follow two distinctive rules. These rules are known as “fault” and “no-fault” policies.
In “no-fault” states, each person is compensated for property damage and bodily injury sustained by their own insurance provider regardless of who was at fault in the accident. Currently, only 12 states and Puerto Rico follow this rule. The other states follow the “fault” rule which states that the person at fault in the accident will bear the financial liability for damage and injuries sustained by the innocent party. The money will usually be paid out of the at-fault driver’s car insurance.
New Mexico is a fault state which means a person injured in an accident must file a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance provider.
It is important to note, however, that the principle described above doesn’t mean that the at-fault driver is obliged to cover the cost of medical expenses incurred by the injured party on the ongoing basis. Rather, the injured person will have to use their own financial resources or their own insurance to pay for their medical treatment. In order to be reimbursed for such expenses, the injured party must open a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company or file a personal injury lawsuit and pursue compensation in court.
Another important issue a person injured in a car accident should take into consideration is the insurance liability limits.
Even though New Mexico law requires all drivers to carry liability insurance, the costs of medical care required may surpass the capacity of the at-fault driver’s insurance.
For example, the total cost of treatment and rehabilitation may amount to $30,000 dollars. However, the minimum liability limit required by the law in New Mexico is only $25,000 dollars. If the at-fault driver doesn’t have a more extensive liability coverage, it means that the injured person will only be reimbursed up to this limit. This means that, in the example mentioned above, the person will have to pay $5,000 from his or her own pocket.
In order to protect the injured parties in scenarios like this, New Mexico requires drivers to have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. This coverage can be a source of additional funds if the medical expenses incurred exceed the at-fault driver’s policy limits or if the at-fault driver doesn’t have a valid insurance.
What Kind of Damages Can Be Recovered?
A person injured in a car accident may wonder what kind of medical treatment, procedures, and rehabilitation options are covered by the liability insurance of the at-fault driver. Common medical costs associated with car accident injuries that can be claimed and recovered as damages include:
- Ambulance fees
- ER treatments
- Surgical costs
- Hospital stays
- Nursing services
- Medication costs
- Physical therapy and rehabilitation costs
If the injured person decides to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver, such damages related to future medical expenses related to the accident can also be claimed.
A person who sustained injuries in a car accident and now faces mounting medical bills has the right to file a claim for damages with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. If the insurer is unresponsive or uncooperative or if their offer seems unjustifiably low, the injured person may consider filing a personal injury lawsuit.
For information about how a person’s medical records can help in preparing a strong claim, see: 4 Reasons Why You Should Go to the Hospital After a Car Accident.
For information about car insurance options and laws in New Mexico, see: What You Need to Know About Different Auto Insurance Options.