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Who Pays for Medical Bills after a Fatal Accident?

If you lost a loved one in a fatal accident, you have our condolences. Losing a beloved spouse, child, or other relative is a shocking experience. Nobody can tell you how much time you need to grieve. Indeed, everyone grieves in their own way, so we encourage you to take however much time you need.

Nonetheless, many devastating accidents leave surviving family members with large medical bills. If your loved one did not immediately die, they were probably rushed to the hospital for emergency treatment. They might have been admitted to the Intensive Care Unit or spent weeks in a coma. This medical care costs a considerable amount of money. In fact, even one night in the hospital can cost more than $3,000.

At Stewart Miller Simmons Trail Attorneys, we receive many phone calls from surviving family members who don’t know what to do with medical bills incurred before a loved one’s death. Below, we identify whether health insurance will cover the costs, and what legal rights you have. Speak with a wrongful death lawyer at our firm.

A Hospital Must Stabilize Your Loved One

A hospital cannot refuse to treat someone because they lack insurance. Instead, federal law requires they be stabilized before being transferred to a different hospital.

After a fatal accident, your loved one might have been rushed to a hospital for life-saving treatment. This hospital can still charge the estate for the cost of medical treatment.

Health Insurance Can Pay for Medical Care

If your loved one had health insurance, then it should have paid for treatment after an accident. The insurer will then have a legal right to reimbursement out of any personal injury settlement.

Any unpaid amounts should qualify as a claim against the estate. For example, even the most generous insurance usually has a deductible, copays, and coinsurance amounts. The insurance might only cover 80-90% of the bill after the deductible. The patient is responsible for this uncovered amount, so it is something the estate should pay after death.

The Estate Can Bring a Survival Action

A survival action seeks financial compensation for damages incurred after the accident but before your loved one’s death. For example, your loved one might have suffered serious injuries in a head on collision. He is rushed to the hospital where he stays in a coma for three days before passing.

The estate can seek financial compensation for any losses suffered during the last three days of your loved one’s life. These losses include:

  • Medical bills to treat injuries
  • Lost income or wages if your loved one couldn’t work
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Conscious pain and suffering endured
  • A survival action is different from a wrongful death claim:

In a wrongful death claim, family members seek compensation for their own losses, like lost services. In a survival action, the estate seeks compensation for losses suffered from the moment of the accident until death.

With a wrongful death claim, compensation goes to family members. In a survival action, the compensation goes to the estate and can be used to pay for medical care your loved one received. If there’s money left over, then it is distributed according to the will or intestacy laws.

A personal representative files a survival action. By contrast, family members typically initiate a wrongful death claim, with a surviving spouse getting the first crack at filing. The deceased’s will should name the personal representative, or the court will appoint someone.

At Stewart Miller Simmons Trial Attorneys, we have handled many survival actions. We understand these claims like we do wrongful death cases. We can also negotiate a settlement with the person or business responsible for the death. They should cover the cost of medical care.

Final medical treatment can be enormously expensive. If your loved one ended up in the ICU, then the bill could easily be in the six figures ($100,000+). The same is true if they needed life-saving emergency surgery. You should seek all legal avenues for obtaining compensation to cover these bills.

Are Survival Actions Complicated?

Yes. They have many of the same complications as wrongful death claims. For example, a major issue is fault.

Imagine your loved one is killed in a collision with a truck. The trucker claims your loved one cut them off. You think the trucker probably made a mistake and crashed into your family member. We will need evidence to prove fault.

Georgia’s modified comparative negligence law is not very helpful. You can’t receive compensation in a survival action if your loved one was 50% or more to blame. Any lesser amount of fault will result in reduced compensation.

We approach survival actions like we do wrongful death cases. Our goal is to:

  • Fully understand what happened by finding as much evidence as possible.
  • Correctly identify the defendant to sue.
  • Strategize how to maximize the amount of compensation. For example, we might seek damages for conscious pain and suffering if your loved one didn’t die immediately at the accident scene.
  • Negotiate effectively with the defendant and their insurer for a settlement.
  • Litigate the claim, if necessary, on behalf of the estate.

A survival action has a two-year statutory deadline. We’ll need to get the case filed in court before that deadline, otherwise the estate won’t receive anything. A wrongful death claim also has a two-year statute of limitations period.

Speak with a Wrongful Death Attorney

Nothing is more depressing than receiving medical bills after the tragic death of a spouse or child. You might be unsure of whether you need to pay these bills yourself out of pocket. Before you do, please pick up the phone and call Stewart Miller Simmons Trail Attorneys today. We can discuss in detail how to go about paying medical bills for a final injury or illness. We can also analyze whether you can file a survival action and/or a wrongful death claim.

Call (404) 529-3476 as soon as possible. We offer a free, confidential meeting with a lawyer at our firm.

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