Badly Injured In A Car Accident, Question About Dealing With Insurances Options
Q: I'm living in California. I had a car accident about 7 months ago. I was one of 3 passengers in the car. Our car was badly hit by another car from the back. Clearly it was the hitter's fault. And I was seriously injured. I had a surgery to fix some bones, now I have 3 pieces of mental permanently inside my body. Some of my nerves are bruised, so I have numbness, it will take some more time to get fully recovered. The hitter's insurance is very low only $15K per person, $30K per accident. And I have my own un/under-insured motorist. Now I already have around $30K medical bill. And most of the bills are paid by my health insurance first. My questions are: Q1: I still need to see doctor from time to time. But I have used up my medical insurance from my own car insurance. Should I pay my medical bill first and get reimbursement back later from hitter's car insurance? Or should I send my medical bill directly to hitter's car insurance now? Q2: Obviously, I need to use my own under-insured motorist. Should I settle with the hitter's insurance first, and then go back to my own later? Or, should I get a total amount offer, and the hitter's insurance pay what they could first and my own insurance pay the rest? How does it work? Q3: My health insurance will ask me for reimbursement when I get my settlement. I heard that I could negotiate how much to reimburse them. Is that true? How should I do it? Q4: People say usually the insurance will offer settlement based on the medical bill. My confusion is, in-network doctors/hospital have negotiation price with my health insurance. If I calculate with the none-negotiated bill, my bill will be around $40K; if I calculate with after-negotiated bill, my bill will be around $25K. Which figure will the car insurance use?
A: First, you should retain a personal injury attorney to handle all of this for you. The attorney will be paid out of your settlement, and you should end up with more after that fee than you would get by handling it yourself. Your case is complicated by the need for future medical care. And the statute of limitations might be running out. You said "about 7 months ago." If it turns out to be before January 1, 2003, your statute of limitations might be one year. After that it's two years. (I don't keep up on this stuff, but as far as I know, it hasn't been decided yet whether the change in the period from one year to two is retroactive.) Auto accident specialists should be called and interviewed right away. Second, you need to file a claim now with your own insurance company. If you have more than one, file claims with all of them. Regardless of what portion of your damages will be paid by what insurer, you have a contract obligation to notify your insurers promptly of accidents which may result in claims. It's not likely that you would lose your coverage over this delay, but it's possible. So don't wait any longer. Don't pay your medical bill until you have to. It's ok to send the bills to the other person's insurance company, and if they pay them fine. Just be sure you don't sign anything. Don't settle with anyone without the concurrance of your insurance company. If the company tells you that they are not involved until after you have settled, then fine, you have to go ahead without their advice and consent. Get their answer in writing. But this is a good example of why you need an attorney. You are assuming that all you get from the other person is the amount of his insurance coverage. Your attorney will have a different attitude. That person will find out whether the other person has wealth, or perhaps an umbrella policy, or perhaps was running errands for Gigantor Industries at the time of the accident, or has a good job with wages that can be garnished for a total amount exceeding the insurance policy. You are entitled to a lot more for your pain and suffering, and possible future medical costs, than the other person's little policy. It happens. It's like any other settlement. They are asked to take a smaller amount than they are owed, and in exchange they get paid more quickly than if there is no settlement. The actual medical expenses will be the basis of settlement offers. But the amount you settle for should be a multiple of the expenses. I don't know what the multiple is, but an experienced auto accident attorney will.