Who Is Responsible for Medical Bill?

Updated on September 06, 2011
A.A. asks from Nashville, TN
34 answers

My husband was in a car wreck on June 11th and was alive and airlifted to the hospital and ended up passing away from injuries that night. He had no medical insurance and I am a stay at home mom for our daughter and pregnant with our 2nd baby. He doesnt have a house in his name and the only thing we have in our name together was our car note and bank account. Which im going to close the account and open a new one. Im wondering will i be liable for his medical bills for that night? If any body has been through this please let me know what i can do. thanks

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So What Happened?

It was just a one car accident and he over corrected and sending his truck into a tree. He was at fault. I contacted my insurance and we did not have medical payment on it so they will not cover anything.

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answers from Dallas on

Tennessee is not a community property state so I doubt there is much they can do especially since it sounds like he had no assets.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

Was the car he wrecked the same car that you guys have a car note on? Usually when you have a loan on a car they require you to have full coverage which should include medical bills......however if the car was paid for and all you had was liability then yeah I think you will be held responsible for it but I would contact all of those places and let them know you are/were a stay-at-home mom and depended upon his income. There should be programs out there and some even will just write it off but there will be a butt-load of forms for you to fill out but just know if you get it done then you might just get approved and even write every cent off. All they can tell you is no.

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answers from Raleigh on

If you did not sign anything, you should not be responsible for anything. When my father died, my sisters and I did not pay any portion of his medical bills as he was the only responsible person. Do not sign anything from the hospital acknowledging that you will cover the bills.

Also, contact a lawyer to handle his estate. Even if there is no money coming to you, get as much legal advice as you can.

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answers from St. Louis on

Well debts of the estate must be settled before you can inherit anything. They can take at least half of anything he has his name on including the bank account even though you are taking your name off of it. I wouldn't suggest you do that since it looks like you are trying to hide assets.

I work around but not in our billing office so here is the run down if you had come into one of the hospitals we work with. All hospital bills would be paid as charity. We are too small to have a charity fund so we would write down the bill and take payments interest free. I work for anesthesiologists who are independent from the hospitals. Any contracted doctors would do the same.

Here is the thing though, that you need to understand, you are responsible for the bills so go into it with a tone of please help me, not you owe me because..... I promise you this will get more written off. Everyone in the medical billing profession right now is raw. Everyone thinks they deserve everything for free because of the economy, even those that don't deserve it. I know for a fact if we hear a kind voice on the other end of the line we will move heaven and earth for them. Just something to think about.

12 moms found this helpful


answers from Memphis on

First, let me say that I am very sorry for your loss.

I agree with others, you should definitely consult a lawyer, contact legal aid if you need to.

Legal Aid Society of Middle Tennessee and the Cumberlands

However, as next of kin you are not necessarily responsible for your husband's medical bills, especially if you did not sign anything saying that you would be a guarantor for them. I did a quick Google search and this is what I came up with.

According to www.ehow.com
"When a loved one dies, a lot of financial questions arise. In every case, your best bet is to consult a trusts and estates attorney. Still, a few rules of thumb can help you figure out your own responsibility. The basic rule is this: The estate of the deceased is liable for the debt, and no one else is---not even relatives. This includes medical bills, credit card debt and mortgages. If the debtor dies with no assets, the debts go unpaid."

For the complete article, http://www.ehow.com/about_###-###-####_pays-medical-bills...

and from Bankruptcy Law Network


"When someone dies (the law calls this person a “decedent”), all assets owned by them in their individual name automatically become part of their “estate.” This is true even if a probate proceeding is not filed. What does this mean? It means that the estate is liable for any bills owed by the decedent at the time of their death, and that these assets should be used to pay the bills.

What if there aren’t enough assets to pay the bills? It’s simple: the bills don’t get paid (with one exception, discussed below).

What if there are medical bills? Generally, medical bills are treated no differently from credit card bills, although some states have limited exceptions."

Here is another article from brighthub.com

"When are heirs and family members not responsible for debt?

"Family members and heirs are not responsible for the debt of a deceased family member if the debt was only in the name of the deceased. This includes anything from a mortgage or loan to a credit card. Although family members are not responsible for this debt it must still be repaid from the estate of the deceased. Creditors may go after the entire estate to get the money to repay the outstanding balance. The estate includes anything from cash and money in savings and checking accounts to insurance money, property and investments.
Debt & Mortgages

If the deceased holds a home or property jointly, creditors may go after the property if there is not enough assets to cover the existing debt. In this case the other person or someone that inherits the home will most likely need to sell the home to repay the outstanding debt.
Joint Accounts & Debt

If the deceased has any joint accounts when they die the other person will be required to pay any outstanding debt on these accounts. Common joint account debt includes credit cards and home mortgages.
A note about community property states

If you live in a community property state the wife of the deceased will automatically become liable for all debts of the deceased. It will then be the wife's responsibility to pay all debts. In community property states, all income and debts are considered equal property of a husband and a wife."

And just so you know, Tennessee is NOT a community property state so that exception would not apply to you.

Good luck.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Redding on

It would be worth the expense to talk to an atty... this will probably be a judgement against you because you are next of kin. This is why life insurance is so important to have.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I do not know laws from state to state and many mons here are giving you some good insight on what steps to take.

First of all, I am very sorry for your loss.

Secondly, do not make any rash decisions or sign anything without first getting some legal counsel. This is extremely tough on you emotionally and honestly, you do not need to make any big decisions for at least a year so that things can settle down a bit and you are about to look at things from a factual point of view vs emotional.

If insurance companies, hospitals, etc see that you are trying to close a joint account, you will be red flagged as trying to hide something.

You are much better off, going in asking "how can you help me" vs hiding anything you have.

Find some good legal counsel..... listen to what they have to say because they are the ones who will know the laws in your state, they'll know what insurance companies and hospitals can and can not do.

Bless your family.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Jackson on

I'm sorry for your loss and I'm so sorry that are facing financial problems in addition to your husbands death. I admit I don't know the laws in TN, regarding medical bills from your husbands accident. I do have some other "real life experience" and recommendations that I hope you read and follow up with.

1) Contact your Car Insurance Company and ask where your vehicle is? Often Towing Companies will take a damaged vehicle and charge a daily fee for storage. You don't need huge "storage" bill for a vehicle. If the vehicle hasn't been taken to a Salvage Yard, contact your Insurance Co. and insist the vehicle be moved out of a rental storage lot.

1a) If the Insurance Co. wants to keep the vehicle in storage, get it in writing from the Insurance Co. that they "will pay any and all storage fees for this vehicle for long as it's in storage." Use the VIN Number (Vehicle Identification Number) as well as the Model Name and year and your name to identify your car on any paper work. (The VIN number should be on your registration papers.)

2) If your husband was employed, it's possible he signed up for a term life insurance policy or a death/disability insurance that he paid for from his paycheck or his employer provided.

3) Contact the bank that has your car note, find out if your loan has life insurance attached to the loan. It's also possible your husband had a term life insurance, possibly an "accidental death policy" through the Bank or Credit Union that you are unaware of.

4) Contact Social Services, apply for WIC, Food Assistance, Housing and Utility Assistance. You may need Social Services to assist you with the expenses for you, your child and your unborn child plus your pre-natal care, labor and delivery.

5) Contact any local Church or Churches, Salvation Army, Goodwill etc... to ask for assistance. There are people who will help you. You may not get help every time or all of the time but you will get some help, some of the time.

5) Inquire about Social Security payments for you and your dependent children. Contact your Bank or Legal Aid for assistance with this. Or you can go online to contact Social Security. Social Security should give you a Case Manger. Write down the Case Managers name, phone number and everything they tell you.

6) I know this is going to be overwhelming, you may not want to believe that you need to do the things I'm listing but please bear with me.

6a) You need a Will, Guardianship Papers, Financial Power of Attorney, Medical Power of Attorney and an Advanced Directive Form. Choosing Guardians will protect your children and avoid foster care (in the unlikely event you are seriously injured, seriously ill or die.)

7) For the legal paperwork listed in (6a) contact Legal Aid and they can fill out the proper forms for you. Or go online and Google SuzyOrman or seek any online "legal websites" most offer free (paperwork) forms for will etc... that you complete on your computer and print out. Or perhaps a Parishioner from a local Church is a Lawyer and can offer you assistance for no cost.

7a) Regarding any online Legal Papers you complete at home. I advise you to take the completed online forms to Legal Aid to assure they forms are complete and legal. Or contact a Lawyer, a typical fee should not exceed 200 -$300.00 to review Legal Papers you have already completed online. Many Churches have a Parishioner who is a Lawyer, that person could review your legal papers and assure they are done correctly at no cost. A lawyer or Legal Aid can advise you about any liability for your late husbands medical bills.

8) As soon as you possible purchase a Term Life Insurance Policy for yourself. Credit Unions & Banks often have inexpensive Life Insurance, if they only have Accidental Death Insurance. Don't buy it. You need a Term Life Insurance Policy. You can purchase Term Life from any Insurance Company, or buy from your Bank or Credit Union if it is Term Insurance for any all causes of death.

Life Insurance will assure you, that in case of your demise, your children and their Guardians can pay your final expenses and perhaps have a little extra to keep.

I know this is a lot of information. I may have overwhelmed you with too much, too soon. Yet, I believe I've informed you of many of the things you need.

I will light a candle for you and your family.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

That really depends on whos fault the wreck was. If your husband wasnt at fault then you shuld get an attorney and the other partty will be responsible for all medical bills as well as some other stuff. If your hubby was at fault then yes unfortunalty you are responsible for the medical bills.

But dont freak out, there are all kinds of organizations out there to help you with this. Just call the hospital and ask them to direct you in the right direction.

I know this is hard. You will get through this and GOD is by your side. You have a new precious angle to look forward to.

Edit: IF you have PIP (personal Insurance protection) on your own car insurance, Medical bills will be covered under that as well.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Albuquerque on

I think you need to call an attonery. Im guessing that whomever was at fault for the accident is liable for all medical bills. Im so sorry for your loss.
I just read your what happened... I would contact the hospital and see if they have a foundation that helps people with medical bills. They will ask to see your tax returns and proof of income. I did this last year and ended up paying much less than what the orginal bills were. Good luck I hope things look up for you

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

I'm so sorry for your loss. I can only imagine what you are going through!

Since you were legally married to him, when he died, his "estate" is responsible for the debt. Before you can get any inheritance, the estate must settle up all his debts. If there is not enough in the estate to cover the debts, then yep you are responsible for debt since you are the next of kin. Just because he passed away doesn't mean his debt is wiped away. It just flows to the next person in line.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

I'm very sorry for your loss. My FIL died in a car accident in late March and the best advice I can give you is to seek-out legal advice on this b/c you can't and shouldn't be making any major decisions right now.

Without insurance, you will likely be liable for the medical bills. The car insurance should cover the "car related" costs, but you will need to make arrangements with the hospital to go on a payment plan. Most hospitals are more than willing to work with you and many will reduce rates to the "insurance rate" rather than the "private pay" rate if you meet with them in person and can demonstrate financial hardship.

Don't do anything with the accounts until his estate (if he had a Will) has been addressed and settled. You can open a separate account for yourself if you need immediate access to cash, but keep in mind that all of his funeral costs and medical bills will be considered "debts against his estate" and will likely come out of that account.

Talk with the hospital, with a lawyer and with the bank.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

If you didn't sign anything ,you are not necessarily responsible. Check with the hospital to see if they have a charity program you can apply for that will cover this bill. RESPONSIBILITY CAN VARY FROM ONE STATE TO THE NEXT. You can also call an attorney /para legal for a free consultation to find out what the facts are in your state. So sorry about you loss, I've been there. Also check with Social Security about money for your children .

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answers from Dallas on

i wouldn't scrambe to "hide" money until speaking to an attorney. your husband's "estate" is responsible for his medical bills. look very closely at your insurance coverage, and make sure they're not just telling you what they want you to believe - it's hard to believe that you don't carry medical if you still have a car note, so just be sure to double check that. is there life insurance, etc.? the hospital WILL work with you, let them know what you can afford to pay monthly, and go from there. like i said yesterday, i am SO very sorry for your loss. try not to get yourself too upset or stressed over the money, it IS just money, it will work itself out in the end - concentrate on caring for yourself and your 2 little ones - have a trusted freind or family member dig into the financial issues for you if possible.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Houston on

First of all, I want to say that I cannot imagine what you're going through and I'm so terribly sorry for you and your babies for the loss of your husband and their father. In order to answer your question, was there another person involved in the accident or was your husband at fault? If there was another vehicle involved, they will likely be responsible for some part of the medical bills if they were found to be at fault, even if it wasn't found to be 100% their fault. Sometimes they will assign a percentage. What I will tell you is that you will likely be responsible for the life flight bill. I know that insurance does not normally cover ambulance or life flight bills. Did your husband have car insurance? There is usually medical coverage associated with your car insurance, so even if he was at fault, they would pay out of that. You really should contact your car insurance agent or adjuster to find out what kind of medical payments you had on the policy.

I honestly don't know what you would be responsible for since he passed away. I don't have any experience with that, but since you were married, it may depend on the laws in the state where you live. I would start with your insurance agent for the car insurance and see what they will cover. Then, contact the hospital and ask to speak to a counselor or someone in their billing/financial department and ask them what will happen. If you can demonstrate a hardship and show that you have no way to pay, they may write it off. Did your husband have life insurance? Unfortunately, there are a lot of facets to these kinds of situations and without all of the details, it's hard to say what you may have to pay. I would start with the car insurance agent and if you start to get bills in the mail that you can't pay, it might be worth getting a consultation with an attorney to see what to do.

Again, I am so sorry you are going through this. I will be praying for you and your children. Hugs and many blessings to you.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

I dont' follow that you didn't have any medical on the policy. Was it a liability policy only? If not, then you should have medical. There is always medical on full coverage policies these cover the loss of the vehicle, items in the vehicle and any medical bills. I would talk with your local insurance person again just to be sure. This information should also be on your insurance cards as well.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

I am so sorry for your loss. I am not sure what the laws are in your state, but I would guess that you could possibly be held responsible for the medical bills, but your car insurance should cover some medical stuff if he has no health insurance. Was there another vehicle involved? Who was at fault? If there was another person involved and they are found to be "at fault" then THEIR car insurance should pay your husbands medical bills, and they would be responsible for the difference.....that is the way that I understand it anyways. But we live in CA, so the laws may be different here than they are there.

Again, I am so sorry for your loss.

ETA: Doesn't really sound like they can get much from you. You could make them small payments until it is paid off and that would keep them from doing anything like garnishing your wages. Also, a lot of times if you call them and tell them the situation, they may have a program that would help out with your husbands medical bills. You should try to get a hold of someone and see if they can help you out.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

Well, it wouldn't hurt to get advice from an attorney. But they can't get money from you that you don't have. There are government funds that medical institutions draw from to cover uninsured people's expenses. But, this is a complicated area, so you might want to request a free consultation with a lawyer.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

They will sue you and might get a judgement against you but if you don't have anything they can't take anything. The only thing they can do is take your income tax refund, if that.

They cannot take your home or belongings. The IRS is the only one that can do that. They do that for tax issues not bills to creditors.

You really have to talk to an attorney or CPA about these questions. Each and every one of us can tell you something different but when it comes down to an actual court proceeding only professional counsel is worth listening to.

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answers from Richmond on

OMG HONEY! That's so awful!! I'm so sorry :(

If someone else was responsible for the accident, they are responsible for the bill, but probably only if you sue them for it.

If your husband was responsibly, there's probably nothing you can do but pay the bill :(

I'm so sorry :(

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

I'm very sorry for your loss. If the accident wasn't his fault, then the other insurance company should have to cover all or most of it. If it's an equal fault situation, then I don't think much can be done. You'll be billed.

Now isn't the time to get too caught up in things that are out of your control. But do check the accident reports and file a claim against the other insurance company if you think it's warranted.

Again, I'm so sorry you are going through this.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry for your loss. I think the rule is 'what you own stands good for what you owe' - anything that is in his name will have to go to pay the medical bill. Beyond that, I don't think they have the right to come after you or your money for his portion of the debt. They can try to make you think you are liable for it, but if I'm not mistaken, they have no legal right to assets that are in your name.

You should be in contact with an attorney to be sure. Review the insurance policies closely, especially the auto policy. Mostly though, just breathe and hold your babies close. God be with you.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Huntington on

First, I am so sorry for your loss.

When my father passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack, we were able to apply for a medical card (Medicaid) after his death to pay his hospital bills. He worked, but because they based it on monthly income and his accident was at the beginning of the month, his income for that month was low and he qualified. I would not have been able to pay for this if it had not been for the medical card. Someone at the hospital helped me though it, becuase obviously it was in their interest to get it approved so they could get paid.

I wish you the best in your difficult journey.



answers from Louisville on

get a lawyer like today



answers from Fayetteville on

I don't have any legal answers for you. But I just want to tell you how truly sorry I am for your great loss. I will be praying for you and your family.




answers from Greensboro on

First, I'm so sorry for your loss. I would apply for Medicaid in his name from the date of the accident. Medicaid back bills three months so that should cover the hospital expenses. Also make sure that you have applied for medicaid and foodstamps for you and your babies. I'm not sure how long of a waiting list Section 8 has but you can also look for apartments that are based on income. Good Luck and blessings and prayers your way.



answers from Tucson on

was he at fault? if not then you can go after the other persons insurance. otherwise you will be responsible for the bills



answers from New York on

So sorry for your loss. Car insurance should cover medical bills



answers from Anchorage on

You may want to talk to a lawyer, but since you were married it does not matter if his name is not on the account, all bills are joint. Maybe see about a medical bankrupcy.


answers from Houston on

I'm am so sorry this happened. From what I know, yes you are responsible for paying his medical bills, though sometimes, the hospital may write off a portion of them, yet it varies. You really do need to consult an attorney, especially about closing the joint bank account. I'm pretty sure that needs to be settled legally first. I know when my dad died of cancer it was a major headache for my mom.



answers from Nashville on

Whatever he owns stands good for what he owes. So the car can be taken and whatever is in the bank acct can be taken. did he leave you life insurance? You can call and sometimes apply for financial assistance on the medical bills and have them lowered substantially. Supposedly you can make a copy of his death certificate and mail it to them telling them that there is no money or insurance to pay for these bills and see what they say from there. Good luck to you.


answers from Dallas on

Amana A,
I'm so sorry for your loss... I think your car insurance will pick up most of the medical, do you know what type of coverage you had. Was another car involved, if so, was it his fault or theirs... there are a lot of factors involved here... the remaining amount due may fall on you, but if you do get billed I would call and try to see if they will close it out.
Hang in there, I can't imagine the heartache you are going through while being pregnant...
God Bless!



answers from Los Angeles on

I'm so sorry this is awful! Was there any medical coverage on the auto insurance policy? They should be able to cover some of it! Would you all qualify for county/state assistance?

I pretty sure if you qualify it would take care of the bills for you! When I was working at a hospital a 2 yr old drowned didn't have any insurance, the mother was able to get her county assistance and it paid for her medical bills

Otherwise, you are technically responsible for the bills! Depending on whether the hospital he was taken too was 'non-profit' or 'county' will depend on whether a collection agency would sue or take liens out when trying to collect!

Under the circumstances I would recommend contacting the hospital and explain your case and see if there is a financial counselor that could help you!

Will continue to keep you and your family in my prayers!


answers from Redding on

Im so sorry youre going thru this. I hope you have friends and family helping you make decisions and taking care of you.
I dont know the legal side to all this stuff, but one thing you can do is call the hospital, Drs, whoever, and tell them about his death and your financial situation and ask if there is any way they can lower the bill for you. You just need to ask and it is very possible they will write off a lot of it. Even if he had lived they can be asked. If they lower the bill you can then ask to make payments. They have to accept them at whatever rate you can make. if its as low as $50 a month they will set up an account for you to start paying. We made payments on a medical bill and they couldnt charge us a late fee or any interest in the months it took to pay it off. You may find it a lot easier to deal with if you just call and ask. I am hoping your kids will start to receive his SSI now until they turn 18. That will help.Take care. and hugs to you and your family.

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