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Hello, I’m attorney Kyle Bachus. The legal world is full of overly complicated jargon and terminology that can be intimidating if you don’t know what it means. In my law 101 video series, I’m breaking down some commonly used legal terms so you can be informed and confident should you ever need to take legal action.

In this episode of law 101, we’re going to break down the legal term subrogation.

That’s a big word; the meaning is very simple. Subrogation literally just means the right to be paid back. In another video, we talked about collateral sources. That is people or entities that might make payment to you aside from the person who actually caused the injury like a health insurance or a disability insurance. Subrogation asks the question of whether your health insurance, let’s say your health insurance pays for medical treatment, alright.

They pay you for medical treatment, but that injury and the need for medical treatment was actually caused by somebody else. And let’s say you bring a claim against the person who actually caused the injury, and you recover the same medical benefits that were paid by your health insurance. The question is, does your health insurance plan have a subrogation right? Do they have a right to be paid back for the benefits that they paid out to you that you’ve now recovered from the person who actually caused the injury? It’s a very complicated answer, and it depends on the type of benefits.

There are all types of benefits. Medicare, Medicaid, private health insurance, VA benefits, disability insurances. Each one of these has a different analysis; you have to look at the contract, that’s the first place we look. The health insurance benefits that you received come through a health insurance policy, which is nothing more than a contract. So we look at the contract. Does the contract require reimbursement or not? Then we look at the law.

Even if the contract requires reimbursement, does the law protect you against having to pay back? And in Colorado, there are very strong straight laws that can prevent subrogation clauses from being enforced. But when we talk about the legal principle, all we’re talking about is, you need to know from a legal perspective that anytime that you receive benefits through an insurance contract, that if you make a recovery from the person who actually caused those bills to be incurred. If you make that recovery, it might trigger a subrogation provision or a provision under the law that says that the initial payer of those benefits has a right to be paid back.

If you have a question about your case, and whether or not there is a subrogation right from any first payer of benefits to you, and whether that’s an enforceable subrogation right, we’re happy to answer those questions for you and talk with you about it at Bachus & Schanker. To learn more about other law topics that can help you feel informed and confident about the law, make sure to check out more videos in this series.


The legal field is complex, and lawyers spend several years studying to become experts in their legal specialty. People who don’t work in the legal field may find these issues overwhelming. Legal matters can be stressful, and confusion can compound that stress. Understanding legal terms can eliminate confusion and alleviate stress, which is the reason for taking a closer look at what subrogation means.

Subrogation refers to a person or group adopting someone’s legal rights. Subrogation applies to financial claims. Subrogation lawyers may also take on cases where one party is pursuing another party’s right to take legal action
Subrogation also refers to reclaiming expenses. Suppose you’re in a car accident. Your insurance company covers property damage costs, enabling you to replace your vehicle. Your legal team files a lawsuit, and your trial lawyers secure a judgment that includes compensation for property damage. Your insurance company may require you to repay them for the property damage benefits you received.

Subrogation typically applies to insurance companies. Insurance companies may pay out claims to a victim and then pursue subrogation claims against the party responsible for the claim. They may also seek reimbursement if the victim receives compensation after they pay out benefits.

Suppose an employee is en route to deliver goods to a client and a drunk driver strikes them. Technically, the employee has been injured during their work duties, and they have a legal right to receive workers’ compensation benefits for their medical bills and lost income while recovering.
Suppose the accident victim was conducting personal business during their free time. In that case, they’d have the right to hire personal injury lawyers and file a lawsuit against the drunk driver responsible for their accident. When the accident victim is an employee, they still have the right to sue the at-fault driver; however, the insurance company that provided benefits can assume their right to sue to recover the benefits paid to the injured party.

Suppose you buy a faulty product, and its flaw causes an injury. You may have grounds to pursue a products liability claim against the equipment manufacturer. However, your health insurance company may seek repayment for medical benefits they paid for treatment for your injury. 
Your health insurance company may also seek repayment if you hire subrogation professionals to file a lawsuit against the party responsible for your injuries. Whether your health insurance company pursues subrogation may depend on whether you’re insured by a government insurance provider, such as Medicaid, or a private health insurance company.

Two things determine if you have to pay a subrogation claim. The first has to do with your contract with the insurance company. Each insurance provider outlines your policy’s terms and conditions in its contract. These terms and conditions include whether they have the right to pursue subrogation. 

The second factor has to do with local laws. Each state has subrogation laws that apply to residents. Colorado law does not require victims to pay subrogation claims if their settlement doesn’t make them whole, which means restoring them to the financial position they enjoyed before the accident. 
Understanding your rights can be confusing, particularly if the insurance company and state subrogation policies conflict. Seek legal advice from subrogation experts to clarify your legal rights. Contact us for a free consultation if you’re facing a subrogation claim or want to pursue a subrogation claim. Our legal experts in Denver, Colorado Springs, Englewood, Aurora, Boulder, and Fort Collins will explain your legal options and what to expect from the legal process. We fight to get you the financial resolution you deserve.


Merriam-Webster: Subrogation. (2022). 
Search Legal Terms and Definitions: Make One Whole. (2022).