“Medical payments” insurance coverage is something we encounter fairly often in the premises liability cases that we handle. Automobile insurance policies will sometimes have a specific coverage called “medical payments coverage”, but most often, in Washington State and Oregon, there is a specific “personal injury protection” coverage to pay medical bills and lost wages (read about personal injury protection coverage here).
Basically, in premises liability cases, medical payments coverage covers the “reasonable” medical costs and sometimes income loss for an injured person when a person is injured on a premises or property, regardless of whether or not the person who owns and insures the premises or property was at-fault in causing the injuries suffered.
If you have or someone you know has been injured on a premises or property, it is important to ask the owner of the premises or property whether or not they have medical payments coverage available. The next step is to identify the particular insurance company at issue and open a claim with them. From there, the injured person can direct the billing department of their medical provider(s) to submit the medical bills directly to the medical payments coverage insurer. This is all particularly important in instances where the injured person does not have health insurance or other financial means to get the treatment they need to address the injuries they have suffered.
Typically the medical payments coverage limit available to the injured person is fairly low, maybe as low as $1,000, but sometimes $5,000. The typically low limits suggest this coverage is likely intended, more often than not, for minor injuries.
The likely thought process behind a premises or property owner paying to have medical payments coverage on their insurance policy is probably to curb potential lawsuits—at least on “smaller” injury claims. The line of thinking might be that many injured people simply want their medical bills and wage loss fairly compensated. If the low medical payments coverage limit is sufficient to accomplish that, it may provide the injured person sufficient compensation without any allegation of wrongdoing on the part of the premises or property owner.
More often than not, though, because the medical payments coverage limits are typically low and because premises or property owners do not typically volunteer any information about their insurance coverages to injured persons, and because those owners are typically dismissive of persons injured on their premises or property—medical payments coverage often isn't enough to curb potential lawsuits. It can, though, still be a valuable tool for other reasons, i.e., to help prevent an injured person's medical debts from being turned over to collections.
If you or someone you know has been injured on a premises or property and it is unclear whether or not there is medical payments coverage available or if it appears the medical payments coverage limit is insufficient to fairly compensate the damages suffered—please give us a call and chat with an attorney today.