Should I Wait to Pay All of My Medical Bills Until I Receive a Full Settlement in My Personal Injury Case?
In many instances, the physicians or medical providers who treat accident victims are aware that, if a claim being made against the at fault party, the payment of the medical bills will be made out of the proceeds of that claim. The providers will ask the attorney to provide them with what’s called a “Letter of Protection”, which basically says that the attorney will protect their medical bill and pay it out of the proceeds of the case, so long as those bills are properly due and owing. In most instances, you won’t have to be concerned about paying the provider as the treatment is being provided. Generally, medical practitioners understand the dynamics of a personal injury matter and are willing to wait until the end of the case to get paid.
It’s important to clarify that I’m referring to the payments that are not protected by either your car insurance company or your health insurance company. Again, in your car accident case, the bulk of your bills will be paid by your insurance company. There may be a small amount that is outstanding, like your copay and your deductible, but the doctors will wait until the end in order to collect that from the proceeds of the case.
I’m Feeling Financially Pinched From All of the Medical Bills Piling Up Following My Injury. Should I Just Hurry Up and Settle?
The insurance company, in my experience, will rarely pay the full value of an injury early in the case. In fact, if you settle before your treatment is completed, you won’t get the full value of your injury, because you don’t know what the full extent of your injury is or how long it’s going to take for your injury to heal. It’s premature to settle the case before your injury stabilizes.
Another thing to be aware of is that insurance companies tend not to offer the maximum they have available for settling a case until well into the development of the case. At the very beginning, the case is usually assigned to an adjuster who has nominal authorization. That person won’t have authority in many instances to offer the value the case really represents. You generally have to put the time in, get the treatment done, and submit yourself to all of the examinations that the insurance company may subject you to so that they can have their own evaluation and get all the records that your attorney provides; and only then can your attorney start meaningful negotiation.
Your attorney will know the value of your case and can negotiate appropriately and make recommendations to you once they have all of the records needed and have provided that information to the insurance company. By then, an adjuster with sufficient authority to adequately settle your case will have been assigned to the case. I have had multiple experiences where the insurance company, in order to resolve the case, have offered me a certain amount that I felt inadequate for the client’s injuries, and I recommended to the client not to accept that amount. Eventually, we settled those cases for often five to ten times more than the initial offer. That’s why I never encourage haste in trying to settle the case. Also, if you’re in a hurry to settle, the insurance company can sense that and will leverage it against you.
What Is Wrong With Thinking, “The Other Person Was Obviously at Fault. I Should Be Able to Handle This on My Own Without Having to Hire an Attorney”?
The handling of a negligence case is a complex matter. You need to understand that if you are handling it on your own, you’re going to be outmatched. The insurance company has knowledgeable representatives who have many, many years of experience and have dealt with these kinds of cases across the desk and over the phone with attorneys. It is therefore naïve to think that a layperson will be able match that skill and experience.
Some insurance companies will try to reach out to the claimant soon after the accident with the intention of contacting the individual before they hire a lawyer; the company hopes that if they make a nominal offer to an injury claimant, they will settle the case and sign a release, before an attorney, who is more knowledgeable and better understands the value of the case, can get involved.
If you want to settle a case that has a defined value, like if you’re trying to resolve the property damage claim on your vehicle, then I would say there’s no harm in representing yourself because generally the amount that they’re going to offer you is the amount from an established industry source. That’s an objective measure of the damage to your vehicle that you can look up and see whether you’re being taken advantage of. But if we’re talking about an injury, that’s not a defined claim; that’s a claim subject to many variables. The insurance company knows them all, and you don’t, so get an attorney who will know those variables and who will be able to properly evaluate your case.
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