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Legally Speaking

Facts you need to know about auto insurance Part Two

02/01/2008 - 4) You may have medical coverage on your auto policy.

As explained in Part One, Wyoming law requires all drivers to carry liability insurance. At the same time you were buying your liability insurance, the insurance agent may have sold you what is called "med-pay" or "medical coverage" with your car insurance policy. This covers medical bills you may get hit with. This can be a God-send for those who are injured because it is a way to pay those medical bills in the near term.

The way this insurance works is that even though the other person caused the accident, you nonetheless file a claim under the medical coverage on your policy with your insurance company.

One other note, many "med-pay" policies have a time limit of 12, 18, 24, or 36 months when the medical coverage is available. In other words, your med-pay policy may cover you for any related medical service that you receive for the next 12 months, 18 months, etc., after the auto accident. After that date, it may provide no coverage at all. So, check your policy.

Lastly, be aware that down the road if you collect any money from the wrongdoer's insurance company, you will be required to pay back your "med-pay" insurance with a portion of any settlement you receive.

5) Your health insurance may pay for your medical care following an accident.

If you do not have "med-pay" coverage, another alternative to cover your medical bills is to file a claim under your health insurance policy, if you are one of those who are lucky enough to have health insurance. This is a complex area of the law, but generally health providers should cover you for the injuries you sustained in the auto accident. As I will explain more fully below, be aware that you will probably have to pay back the health insurance company out of any settlement you ultimately make with the adverse party's insurance company.

6) Developing a lien agreement.

If you do not have medical coverage, and you do not have health insurance, you might explore working out a "lien" agreement with your doctors and the hospital. A lien is a legal agreement in which you agree with the doctor or hospital that they will wait for payment rather than pursuing collections against you. In return, you promise that when you receive a settlement, you will pay them first and up front. This is a somewhat technical process and often requires an attorney, but it is something that should be explored with the billing department at your doctor's office or the hospital. Our firm has generally had success with developing these agreements for clients.

7) Be aware that the doctrine of "subrogation" will apply to your claim.

This doctrine says that a portion of any money that you receive from the person who caused the auto accident ultimately must be used to pay back those insurance companies which paid your outstanding medical bills, etc. Again, this is a somewhat complicated issue, and we would encourage you to have your lawyer look at this directly. But you need to know about this subrogation doctrine when you settle because there is a very good chance that out of the settlement money you receive, you will have to turn around and pay back any insurance company or entity that initially assisted in paying your bills.

Every case is different with specific circumstances that should be addressed individually. Should you have a legal question, speak to an attoroney who is qualified to answer your specific questions.

R. Michael Shickich has a regional injury law practice

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