When I first meet with clients who have suffered bodily injuries in a car accident, I give them the following advice about recovering all damages to which they are entitled.
There will most likely be several bills that need to be paid by the negligent driver’s insurance. There will be the ambulance expense, hospital bill, emergency physician’s fee, and more. If there was health insurance available, the health insurance will cover a portion of those bills, leaving the patient’s portion of responsibility for the bill outstanding. Please note that the first offer of payment for bodily injuries by the negligent driver’s insurance will be unreasonably low. Most people want to resolve their case immediately and would accept this unjust offer without being properly compensated. Thus, always talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer who will fight for the true worth of your damages, have all bills paid, and all treatment completed before the case is closed forever.
Never settle with the auto insurance company for your bodily injuries without just compensation. When you are hit by a negligent driver, that driver’s insurance policy should pay all your medical bills depending on policy limits available, from $30,000 and up. However, the insurance company will never offer the correct value of all your medical bills, as it is their job to devalue your case. Further, if health insurance paid for the bill, which is always significantly less than the original bill, the auto insurance will now value your case at that reduced cost instead of the original bill. This significantly reduces the value of your case and, therefore, how much you recover for your damages. Thus, do not sign any bodily injury agreement and never settle for less. It is highly advisable to hold off on using any health insurance to pay for medical bills in order to circumvent this issue so that your case is valued at its full potential.
Further, once your attorney receives payment exhausting the at-fault driver’s policy limits, you are also entitled to underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage compensation from your own insurance, from $30,000 and up, depending on your policy. UIM coverage protects those involved in an accident with an at-fault driver whose insurance does not cover all damages and/or medical expenses so that you are fairly compensated. Full coverage also includes uninsured motorist (UM) coverage to protect those hit by an at-fault driver who does not have any insurance on his or her vehicle and therefore is unable to pay any damages the driver has caused in an auto accident. If the negligent driver who caused the accident is affluent and does not have insurance, you may sue this person to recover all damages. Most often, however, uninsured drivers do not have significant assets.
Full coverage policies also include personal injury protection (PIP), usually $2,500 and up, depending on the policy, allowing you to recover your medical expenses no matter who is at fault for the accident. It is in your best interest to protect yourself with a full-coverage auto insurance policy so you are not left with outstanding medical bills caused by a negligent driver.
Medicare and Medicaid may seek reimbursement for any payments made for an accident under not only the negligent driver’s auto insurance, but also through one’s own insurance settlement under UM/UIM and PIP. However, all subrogation claims may be negotiated and reduced down when applicable. Some states have modified rules. In Texas, for example, hospitals and health insurance companies are both allowed to recover their liens or expenses through one’s recovery against the negligent driver’s insurance but not through one’s own personal insurance policy, as prescribed under the Texas Property Code.
Never settle without having a knowledgeable personal injury attorney on your side. A good attorney will recover not only your economic damages but non-economic damages, such as physical pain and mental anguish. Additionally, punitive damages, designed to punish the at-fault party, may also be recovered by your attorney.
Published in GPSolo eReport, Volume 9, Number 3, October 2019. © 2019 by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association.