One of the first questions we get when meeting with clients is, “How do I pay my medical bills?” Most people do not have significant savings or health insurance to cover an emergency room visit on top of the costs of repairing a vehicle, taking time off work to see doctors, and getting any long-term treatment. A single collision can come with a massive stack of bills that set you back months to years as you struggle to recover. However, if you were injured by a negligent driver, then you may have a car accident claim against that driver’s insurance company. In order to get the most out of your claim, you should work with an experienced personal injury attorney who understands how to tell your story effectively.
The At-Fault Driver Should Always Pay
Indiana is a “fault” state with regard to car accidents. When a negligent driver injures someone else, whether another driver, a passenger, a bicyclist, or a pedestrian, then that driver is responsible for paying compensation to the victim. For the victim, that means filing a claim against the driver’s auto insurance policy, a claim which can include both economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages include the financial costs of a car accident, the majority being medical bills. This can start with your emergency room bill, but it can also include any surgeries, physical therapy, medical equipment, long-term care, and medication from the start of your treatment to the end. Alongside your medical expenses, you are also entitled to compensation for how the injury has impacted your career. For example, if you had to take time off work to rest and attend doctors’ appointments, you can recover these lost wages in your claim. You can also recover lost wages if you had to reduce your work hours or change careers due to the accident.
Your non-economic damages will include the non-financial costs of your injuries, such as the physical pain of your injuries, the emotional trauma, and any distress caused by the at-fault driver. These costs are more fluid and harder to prove, but a skilled attorney can help you calculate them and advocate for them.
Altogether, your claim should ask for compensation for:
- All medical expenses, including past and future treatments
- Lost wages
- Lost earning potential
- Pain and suffering
- Mental distress
Your Own Auto Insurance Policy May Have a Role to Play
While the at-fault driver’s insurance should be your main source of compensation after a collision, your own insurance company may provide some coverage. Drivers in Indiana are generally required to have uninsured motorist (UM) and underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage alongside their liability policies. These policies apply to two different scenarios:
- Uninsured Motorist Coverage: While all drivers must legally have car insurance in Indiana, some drivers allow their policies to lapse or do not purchase insurance. If you were injured by an uninsured driver, you can file an UM claim with your own insurance company to recover compensation. In this situation, your insurance company would serve as the at-fault party in your claim. UM coverage must match your own liability policy, so if you have minimum coverage, you can recover at least $25,000 in compensation. UM coverage will also apply to injuries caused in hit-and-runs where you cannot identify an at-fault driver.
- Underinsured Motorist Coverage: An underinsured motorist is a driver who has insurance but not enough to cover the full costs of an accident. Most drivers only have the minimum under state law, so you may max out the at-fault driver’s policy limits and still not cover all of your expenses. In this case, you could also file an UIM claim with your own insurance company to make up the difference. Like UM coverage, UIM policies must match your liability policy, so you may be able to add up to $25,000 to your personal injury claim.
Another optional policy that can benefit your situation is MedPay or personal injury protection (PIP). MedPay is no-fault insurance coverage that applies to any auto accident, whether someone else was at fault or not. The moment a collision occurs, you can use MedPay to begin paying your medical bills. Most policies start at $1,000 and go up to at least $10,000. If you have MedPay through your auto insurance company, you should consider using it to pay for any immediate treatment.
The Basics of Health Insurance Subrogation and Medical Liens
Another source to consider is your own health insurance coverage. Health insurance often offers the most benefits to accident victims, as health insurance companies have negotiated rates with hospitals and doctors that can reduce the overall costs of your treatment. Having health insurance can drastically decrease your out-of-pocket expenses after a collision.
However, the state of Indiana allows health insurance companies to file subrogation claims when another party is at fault for their insured’s injuries. This means that your health insurance company may have a stake in your personal injury claim and be able to recover all of its expenses from your settlement or jury verdict. When calculating the costs of an accident, you should include the total costs of your treatment before health insurance kicks in, not just your out-of-pocket expenses, to make sure you receive enough compensation to cover the subrogation claim.
Beyond health insurance, some doctors allow accident victims to get treatment on a lien basis. A lien is a contract between a doctor and patient that states that the doctor will forgo payment for treatment in return for receiving compensation in the patient’s personal injury claim. This ensures that you get care as soon as possible and that your doctor gets paid down the line. At the end of the claims process, your attorney fees and doctors’ bills will be paid first, then you will receive whatever is left. An experienced attorney can negotiate a lien for you to ensure you get the most out of a claim.
Consider Every Option
Our team at Emerson Divorce and Accident Injury Attorneys, L.L.C., has spent decades representing Indy accident victims in personal injury claims. We believe our clients deserve the maximum amount after a collision with a negligent driver and we have the expertise to fight for their best interests. We can sit down with you, go over all the costs of your accident, review every available insurance policy, and explain your best options for getting your expenses covered.
We understand that you are going through a difficult time and are worried about paying your bills, which is why there is no cost to meet with us. We work on a contingency-fee basis, meaning we do not get paid unless we win your case. To learn how you can maximize your injury claim, contact us at (317) 969-8000 and get a free consultation from an Indianapolis personal injury attorney.