You are crossing the street on Hampton Boulevard on your way to Old Dominion University, or you are enjoying your bicycle ride on Atlantic Avenue near the oceanfront of Va Beach when you are hit by a motorist. You suffer serious, debilitating bodily injuries. In this situation, you may have the ability to obtain medical expense benefits from your own auto insurance policy, even though you were not in a vehicle at the time of the collision.
What is med pay?
Med pay is a supplementary form of coverage that can be used to help pay for medical bills in the event of an injury caused by being struck by a motor vehicle. By statute, Virginia residents can request that their insurer provide up to $2,000 for reasonable and necessary expenses for medical treatment, emergency medical services, and funeral expenses resulting from an accident. A Virginia resident may also request coverage for loss of income incurred as a result of an accident. Once requested and paid for, the insurance company must provide up to $2,000 of medical benefits and up to $100 per week for lost income, but can offer more by agreement. Typically, medical payment benefits are claimed for injuries sustained while occupying a car.
But what happens if a person who has opted to pay for medical expense benefits is injured while walking down the road or riding on a bicycle?
Med pay can cover a named insured and/or family members in the insured’s household while walking or riding a bicycle
Virginia Code Section 38.2-2201(A) provides that “upon request of an insured” any policy providing bodily injury or property damage liability insurance covering the ownership, maintenance, or use of a motor vehicle must provide medical payments and loss of income benefits “to the named insured and, while resident of the named insured’s household, the spouse and relatives of the named insured” for injuries sustained “while in or upon, entering or alighting from or through being struck by a motor vehicle while not occupying a motor vehicle.”
This code section is important for a couple of reasons. First, it requires an insurance company to provide med pay benefits to not only the named insured, but also any relative living in his household. Therefore, in the event that any person is injured while walking or cycling, it is important to evaluate every automobile insurance policy paid for by every member of the injured person’s household. An experienced Virginia personal injury attorney should ensure that every potential avenue of coverage is explored in the event of a collision.
The second important part of Virginia Code Section 38.2-2201(A) is that it provides coverage not only to persons occupying a covered vehicle, but also people entering or exiting a vehicle and, more importantly for pedestrians and cyclists, anyone struck by a motor vehicle while not occupying a motor vehicle. Thus, a pedestrian or cyclist will be covered by any medical payments coverage he pays for and any medical payments coverage provided to any other relative in his household.
These medical payments and loss of income benefits can provide an injured pedestrian or cyclist with a vital coverage for their medical bills and lost wages, especially if the injured person does not have health or other insurance benefits.
Med pay is only available if the accident involves a motor vehicle
Unfortunately, Virginia Code Section 38.2-2201(A) only requires an insurer to provide coverage (again if requested by the insured) to a pedestrian or cyclist if they are struck by a motor vehicle. Therefore, a pedestrian or cyclist injured in a collision with another pedestrian, cyclist, or even someone operating an electric personal assistive mobility device, electric power-assisted bicycle, or moped operating under 35 miles per hour may not be able to recover medical payments and lost income benefits. However, just because there may not be medical payments or lost income coverage, there may be other ways of recovering for injuries and losses sustained in a collision. An experienced Virginia personal injury attorney should be consulted whenever someone is injured as a result of the actions of another.
Med pay can be “stacked”
The Virginia Code also allows for Virginia residents to “stack” medical payments coverage. Virginia Code Section 38.2-2211 provides that “[n]o policy or contract of bodily injury or property damage liability insurance that” provides medical payments coverage “shall be issued…if the policy provides for credit against the medical expense coverage for any other medical expense insurance to which the injured person may be entitled.” This means that a person who elects to pay for medical payments benefits for multiple vehicles or families with multiple policies providing medical payments coverage can collect for each vehicle and/or each policy.
For example, if an injured bicyclist owns three vehicles and elects to pay for $2,000 of medical payments coverage for each of the vehicles, he can collect up to $6,000 in benefits. Further, if the bicyclist elects to pay for $2,000 in medical payment benefits on his vehicle and he lives with his brother who also has $2,000 in medical payment benefits on his vehicle, the injured cyclist can recover up to $4,000 in benefits.
However, the injured cyclist’s recovery of medical payments benefits will be limited to his actual medical expenses as a result of his injuries in the accident. Further, if the injured cyclist has health insurance, his recovery of medical payments benefits may be limited to the amounts paid by the health insurer plus the cyclist’s out of pocket expenses, like co-pays.
Why this matters to you
As you can see, if you are injured by a motor vehicle while walking or using a bicycle, medical payment benefits can provide coverage for medical bills and, potentially, lost income. These benefits can provide an immediate way to keep medical bills from getting out of hand. In certain cases, med pay can allow an injured pedestrian or cyclist to see a specialist that would otherwise be too expensive.
Talk to an attorney today
Contact the experienced attorneys at Shapiro & Appleton today for a free, confidential consultation. We understand the nuances of Virginia personal injury law and automobile insurance policies. When you contact our firm, you will have the opportunity to speak directly with a lawyer to have your questions answered. We are here to help.