By Jedidiah McKeehan

So, the word “subrogation” is probably a word that you have heard at some point in your life, but you may not be exactly sure what it means.  What does it mean, anyway?

In the legal context, the word subrogation most often comes in to play in personal injury lawsuits.  For example, say that you are in a car accident and sustain injuries.  Thankfully, you have health insurance and your health insurance pays for all of your medical expenses.  They pay for your emergency room visit, they pay for your doctor visits, and even your physical therapy.

Well, the car accident may be determined to be the other driver’s fault, and their car insurance is going to pay you some amount of money for the injuries you sustained.  You may be thinking, “Great!  Some money for my pain and suffering and all of the trouble this accident has caused me.”

In the words of Lee Corso, “Not so fast, my friend!”  Tennessee law states that your health insurance company, whether it is Blue Cross Blue Shield, TennCare, Medicare, or some other provider, has a subrogation interest in your settlement funds and are entitled to be paid back what they paid to medical providers on your behalf.

Think about how crazy this is.  You make all of these health insurance premium payments for years and years and when you actually need to use your health insurance, they want the money back that they paid to medical providers for you.  Unfortunately, that’s the law.

So how does this work?  Say Medicare paid $2,000.00 in medical expenses for you and you received $5,000.00 from the other driver’s insurance company.  Now you are only getting $3,000.00 instead of $5,000.00 because you have to pay back your health insurance company for what they paid out for you.  What a difference!

If you do get in a car wreck and your health insurance company pays any of your bills, it’s important to remember that you are going to have to pay them back at the end of your case.  This process is not only frustrating but can also be time-consuming and complicated and you may want to consider getting an attorney involved to help you with your car wreck case and the subrogation process, in particular.

Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties.  He works in many areas, including criminal, personal injury, landlord-tenant, probate, and estate planning. Visit for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.