When you are injured in an automobile accident, the effects can be devastating and far-reaching. The toll the incident takes on you is multi-faceted: psychological, physical and financial. Long after the initial shock and stress dissipate, you must contend with the symptoms of pain and suffering and the need to visit hospitals, doctors and therapists numerous times. Then, for months and probably years to come, you must endure the monetary costs. Exactly what is your best course of action that would help to lift this difficult burden?
The first step should always be to understand what your options are. The quickest and easiest way to do this is to contact the experienced car accident injury lawyers at McGehee ☆ Chang, Landgraf, Feiler.
THE DEFENDANT’S RESPONSIBILITY
If you have been hurt in an automobile accident, whether it is with a commercial vehicle or a private one, one of your first instincts may be to hold the other person, also known as the defendant, financially accountable by filing a personal injury lawsuit. After all, you have probably seen numerous advertisements on television sponsored by attorneys looking to help you sue. The problem is that these procedures are often unsuccessful. Even when they do result in victory for the plaintiff, they can take years. If you have medical bills that need to be paid now, you must find other solutions.
In general, you, not the defendant, are responsible for paying your ongoing medical bills. The only exceptions occur if the accident happened in a “no fault” state or if the crash was covered by medical pay insurance. Otherwise, your only chance of getting paid is if you are the victor in a personal injury lawsuit.
“NO FAULT” INSURANCE
If the accident took place in a “no fault” state, your chances of getting more immediate assistance with your health-related bills look a lot rosier. In such a case, your own insurer will cover some or all of the cost of your medical bills regardless of who was at fault for the accident – up to the limit of your coverage. If your coverage is through Medicare or a state-run Medicaid program, that entity will pay your bills. If you are uninsured by any private or public provider, you are expected to cover the entirety of your costs.
ACCIDENTS IN NON-“NO FAULT” STATES
In general, you are expected to cover the cost of any medical expenses you incur after an automobile accident in a state that does not have no-fault insurance mandates. Some consumers or commercial entities based in these locations elect to pay for medical payment insurance coverage, also known as med pay. In these instances, the coverage will take care of the cost of the medical bills received by drivers or passengers who are involved in an accident with the insured. Most of the time, these policies are limited to costs below $10,000. If victims’ bills exceed that amount, they are responsible for those costs.
REIMBURSING THE INSURER
There are situations in which you are required to pay the insurer back. For example, you may have been hurt in an accident after which Medicaid, Medicare or the defendant’s insurance paid some or all of your hospital, doctor or physical therapy bills. Should you eventually receive a favorable court verdict or a personal injury settlement against the defendant, it is your responsibility to reimburse the insurer for these costs.
THE STEPS INVOLVED IN FILING A PERSONAL INJURY LAWSUIT
If your medical bills are relatively small or you are able to come to a satisfactory agreement with your insurer or the defendant’s company, you may never need to consider taking your case to court. However, there are numerous situations in which it is advisable to thoroughly investigate your options to ensure that your interests are given the priority they deserve. The following is a general description of the stages common to most personal injury lawsuits.
- Gather documentation about your injury, including names of witnesses, police reports, medical bills and any other data that can be used to show how the accident affected you.
- Speak with an attorney. During this visit and the subsequent investigation, the attorney will determine whether you have a viable case and whether you have sufficient assets to cover fees, settlements or judgments.
- You choose an attorney and sign a fee agreement.
- Your attorney files a personal injury complaint in civil court. This document describes your allegations in general terms.
- Your attorney has approximately a month to physically deliver or “serve” the complaint to the defendant in a manner that can be verified. The complaint document specifies when the defendant must appear in court.
- The defendant notifies their insurance company of the lawsuit. If the defendant has not already hired an attorney, the insurer will do so.
- The pre-trial “discovery” process occurs. During this time, both sides obtain evidence and witness details from each other and appear in court to let the judge know how things are progressing. During this stage, the parties might agree to mediation or arbitration and set a trial date. As discovery goes on, both sides will get depositions from the opposing party and their witnesses. If the sides cannot come to a settlement, determinations will be made regarding the evidence that will be allowed, and a jury will be selected.
- The trial phase. During this stage that can last days or weeks, the jury or judge will decide whether the defendant was at fault for the accident and, if so, how much they will be required to pay the plaintiff in damages. Once the trial ends, the losing party can appeal the decision.
The vast majority of personal injury cases are settled before they go to trial. This underscores the importance of finding an attorney you trust who has a proven track record of settlement negotiation and success in personal injury cases like yours.
Recovering from the psychological, physical and financial consequences of an automobile accident can be a long and difficult process. Fortunately, you don’t need to carry the burden on your own. Place your case in the capable hands of an expert personal injury attorney who is committed to fighting on your behalf so that you can get the long-term financial assistance you deserve.