Louisiana Accident Victims — Common Questions
Who will pay my medical bills caused by an accident?
Assuming someone else is at fault for your accident and injuries, the at-fault party’s insurance company will be responsible for paying all accident-related medical bills. However, the insurance company will not generally pay these bills as they are incurred. Rather, the insurance company will usually pay for these when the entire case is either settled or concluded by trial in court. Until that time, the accident victim can rely upon his or her healthcare insurance, Medicare, Medicaid or any other form of available federal- or state-funded medical care coverage.
Additionally, if your claim involves an automobile accident, you should check your own automobile insurance policy coverage declarations to determine whether you have medical payments coverage under your policy. If you do, it will typically be for a limited amount; usually between $1,000 and $10,000.
If your medical bills are paid by your own health insurance coverage, Medicare, Medicaid, any other form of medical care coverage or your own automobile insurer’s medical payments coverage, you will almost always be required to reimburse them to some degree in the event that you recover from the at-fault party’s liability insurance company. Thus, in determining what may be a fair settlement from the at-fault party’s insurance company, you must determine exactly how much you will be required to repay those insurers who paid your accident-related medical bills.
In the event that you do not have any healthcare insurance, are not eligible for Medicare, Medicaid or any other form of available federal- or state-funded medical care coverage, and do not have automobile insurance medical payments coverage (or your accident is not automobile-related), we will often pay for our clients’ necessary accident-related medical care. When we do, we are reimbursed out of any recovery we obtain for you through settlement or trial. This reimbursement comes from the claimant’s settlement or judgment proceeds after the deduction of attorney’s fees.
What about my lost time from work caused by an accident and injury ?
The at-fault party’s insurance company will ultimately be required to pay you for your lost earnings and earning capacity, past and future. However, the insurance company will not typically pay for these elements of damage until the case, in its entirety, is either settled or concluded in court. If you are injured severely enough that you will be unable to work for a long period of time, you should apply for any disability insurance benefits that you may have as well as for Social Security disability benefits if you qualify.
The insurance company adjuster is offering a quick settlement for pain and suffering before I hire a personal injury attorney. Should I take it?
As a personal injury attorney, I advise clients not to accept a settlement shortly after the accident if they are still experiencing pain. The risk is, once you accept a settlement and release the at-fault party and its insurance company, your claim is over. You cannot “come back later” to ask them to pay more. If your doctor later discovers that your injury is more serious than originally thought, perhaps requiring surgery, very extensive medical bills and lost time from work, then you have sold yourself short by accepting the quick settlement. So before settling your claim, you should have a firm understanding from your doctor of what exactly your injury is, when it is expected to resolve completely (or whether any aspects of it are permanent) and the nature and cost of all required medical treatment. Only with that information, can a reasoned assessment of your claim’s value can be made for possible settlement.
How will my automobile repairs caused by a car accident (if applicable) be handled?
The at-fault party’s insurance company will be required to pay for the damage to your vehicle. You are entitled to take the vehicle to any repair person of your choosing. If it is determined that the cost of repairing the damage exceeds 75% of the value of the vehicle, the insurance company may declare the vehicle a “total loss.” In that case, the insurer must pay the full value of the vehicle plus sales tax.
Whether or not the at-fault party was insured, if you have collision coverage under your own automobile policy, it must pay to repair the vehicle, or pay the “total loss,” if applicable, plus sales tax, less your deductible. Sometimes it is quicker to have your own insurance company pay for the property damage because it must do so regardless of fault, whereas the at-fault party’s insurance company may take more time because it must first determine whether or not it will accept fault for the accident.
If your own insurance company’s collision coverage pays for your vehicle repair or total loss, then it can pursue recovery from the at-fault party’s insurance company and will also seek recovery of your deductible to pass along to you.
Which of my own insurance policies come into play when I am injured by the fault of another?
Your own health care coverage and automobile medical payments insurance coverage (if injured in an automobile accident) should be used to pay your medical bills even if you were injured by the fault of another party, as described in answer to question number 1 above. Your own insurance company’s collision coverage my be called upon to pay for your automobile property damage, if applicable, regardless of fault, as described in answer to question number 5 above.
Additionally, if you purchased uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage under your automobile policy, that coverage comes into play to the extent that the accident was caused by another party’s fault. If the at-fault party is uninsured, then your uninsured motorist coverage covers your injuries and damages to the extent you have such coverage. If the at-fault party has insurance, but the limits are insufficient to fully cover your damages, then your underinsured motorist coverage provides you with additional coverage, above those limits, for your injuries and damages to the extent you have such coverage.