If you're in a car accident that requires serious medical attention, there's a good chance you'll be transported to a hospital in an ambulance, which can be costly.
Fortunately, there are several kinds of insurance coverages that may pay your ambulance bill after a car accident, but not all of them will apply in every situation.
Some insurance policies have optional coverages; that is, they'll only help pay your bills if you opted to purchase the coverage when you signed up for auto insurance. So you'll have to work with your car insurance company to determine which of your insurance policies will cover ambulance rides.
Ambulances are covered when medically necessary
An ambulance ride is medically necessary when you need care right away or need medical supervision on the way to see a doctor.
In general, insurance will cover the cost of an ambulance when it is determined to be medically necessary. In those cases, insurance companies will consider the cost of an ambulance ride in the same manner as they would any other medical expense after a car accident.
For example, transportation would be medically necessary for a concussion or spinal injury but not for minor scrapes and bruises.
Unfortunately, a lack of alternate transportation is not considered sufficient justification. Just because your car is undrivable doesn't mean you'll receive a free ride to the doctor in an ambulance. Of course, it's better to play it safe and take an ambulance if you think you are seriously hurt, so don't refuse one if you're badly injured.
What types of car insurance cover ambulance rides?
After you're in a car accident, many types of car insurance can contribute to the cost of your ambulance ride. But not all types of car insurance coverage will apply in every situation, and they aren't all available in every state.
Types of car insurance that can cover ambulance rides include:
- Personal injury protection: If you live in a no-fault state, your personal injury protection (PIP) coverage will pay for your medical bills, including ambulance costs, regardless of who caused the accident.
- Medical payments: Medical payments (MedPay) is optional coverage that will pay for ambulance rides, just like personal injury protection. It is offered in states where PIP is not required or as a supplement to mandatory PIP coverage.
- The other driver's bodily injury liability coverage: If the other driver was deemed to be at fault for the accident, their bodily injury liability coverage will pay for your ambulance ride and other medical expenses.
- Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage for bodily injury: If the other driver was at fault and doesn't have liability coverage, uninsured motorist coverage will pay for the costs of your ambulance. Likewise, underinsured motorist coverage goes into effect if the at-fault driver's coverage limit isn't high enough to pay all of your medical bills. Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverages are optional in some states but required in others.
Different types of coverage can often overlap. For example, imagine you have $10,000 in PIP coverage and $100,000 in uninsured motorist bodily injury (UMBI) coverage.
If you're in a serious accident with an uninsured driver and get a $15,000 medical bill, you can use $10,000 of PIP, and the remainder will be paid by your UMBI.
Health insurance can cover ambulance expenses
If no car insurance applies to your particular accident or you exhaust the coverage limits when it does apply, your health insurance may help cover the cost of riding in an ambulance.
But, depending on the details of your health insurance policy, you may be responsible for part of the cost, such as your annual deductible. Car insurance covering medical expenses, on the other hand, usually doesn't have a deductible, so you should use it first, if you can.
Who pays for ambulance rides if coverages overlap?
When there are multiple types of insurance that provide overlapping coverage, who is responsible first: your car insurance, the other driver's car insurance policy, or your health insurance? The exact order, or priority, of kicking in for your ambulance bill can be complex.
The sections above are listed in the approximate order that each coverage would go into effect. However, the exact order will depend on several factors, including:
- The laws in your state
- The types of insurance you have
- The rules laid out in your automobile and health insurance policies
The only way to determine the exact priority of payment for your situation is to consult your insurance providers, as well as the other driver's insurer, if applicable.
The cost of riding in an ambulance
Riding in an ambulance has a high and, unfortunately, extremely variable cost. The price before insurance can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, and it's very difficult to predict how much the bill will be until you get it. Plus, ambulances are usually dispatched by proximity, and the closest one may not be the cheapest one.
Factors that can influence the cost of your ambulance bill include:
- Where you live
- Whether you ride in an ambulance owned by a nonprofit or for-profit organization
- Whether you have health insurance
- What types of services you receive — someone receiving life support may pay more than someone with a broken leg
- What types of services the paramedics are capable of providing, even if they don't actually provide them
The distance you travel in an ambulance makes up a small portion of the total bill.
Adults who are conscious do have the option to refuse transportation by ambulance. If you are not seriously injured and believe you can get yourself to the doctor safely, you may consider turning down the ambulance ride.
There is generally no charge to receive onsite medical care from emergency medical technicians (EMTs), though, so there's no reason not to let an EMT check you out for injuries before you leave the scene of your accident.