A question we get asked all the time is why people should turn their medical bills over to their own car and health insurance companies when the accident was the other driver’s fault.
Illinois law provides that the at fault driver is ultimately responsible for paying all forms of compensation to the driver they injure. This includes economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include all expenses and damages incurred because of an accident that is wrongfully caused by someone else. This includes medical bills, reasonable and necessary out of pocket expenses and lost time from work. We will focus on the medical bills here.
When someone is insured and causes an accident, their car insurance company agrees to pay those amounts that the insured person is legally obligated to pay. So why submit your medical bills to your own insurance if the other person’s insurance is obligated to pay?
Because although they are obligated to pay your medical bills, they are not obligated to pay those amounts as you incur them, only at the end of the case. If you have a lengthy recovery period, and your bills are not paid, you could be turned into collection for your past due bills or your medical providers could refuse to treat you until the bill is paid.
And if you wait too long to have your medical bills turned in to your insurance companies, they may be able to refuse to pay them at all. All insurance companies have time periods written in their policies within which you must submit your bills. Some are as short as six months; some car insurance companies will pay accident related bills up to three years; it just varies by the policy. If your bills don’t get paid and they are not submitted within the proper time frame, they become your debts.
One more reason to turn your bills over to your insurance company is that health insurance companies get discounts over the face value of the bill. Sometimes these discounts can be 60% or more of face value. You get credit for these discounts when you pay your insurance company back out of any settlement or verdict amount. Additionally, lawyers have laws that can be used to further reduce the amounts your health insurance must be paid back from any proceeds. So to a very real extent, you can end up saving perhaps thousands of dollars and certainly lots of stress by having your own insurance companies pay your medical bills as they become due.
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, or any motor vehicle accident, call us now at 815-965-2000 (or toll free 877-965-2100) for a free consultation. Put our personal experience to work for you.
Summer is a favorite time for people to ride their motorcycles, but there are special risks involved that should be considered.
The most obvious risk is of being injured, usually because someone turns or pulls out in front of you. For whatever reason, despite bright lights and loud pipes, some people just don’t seem to see motorcycles.
When that happens, there is a much greater risk of being injured when you’re involved in an accident on your motorcycle. Unlike being in a car, there is nothing between you and the other vehicle when you are hit on a motorcycle. Helmets are good to protect your head, but there’s not much that can protect a body when hit by a car or truck or when bouncing on pavement.
So when you are involved in an accident riding your motorcycle, you are at a much greater risk of injury than in a car. Combine that with the fact that medical costs are rising faster than any other expenses you can encounter and you can see the problem. If you are injured on your motorcycle, you will likely be more seriously injured and incur a greater amount of medical bills than if you were in your car.
Illinois law provides that if you are injured by someone else’s negligence, you are entitled to compensation from them “for the nature and extent of your injuries”. As a practical matter, however, your recovery will likely be limited by the amount of insurance coverage available, both from the coverage provided the other driver and by your own underinsured motorist coverage.
Take Fred (not his real name) for instance. Fred was driving his motorcycle last summer on a rural road where the speed limit was 55 mph. As Fred approached a side road, an oncoming driver turned directly in front of him. He had no choice but to hit him. Fred sustained a fractured wrist, a fractured ankle and a fractured leg, among other more minor injuries. He required roughly 6 months of treatment and lost that amount of time from work. He incurred medical bills exceeding $300,000, and his medical insurance paid over $156,000 to pay those bills in full.
The trouble is the other driver, who caused the accident, only had $100,000 in car insurance coverage. Fred’s underinsured motorist coverage was also $100,000, but Illinois doesn’t allow us to stack his UIM coverage on top of the other driver’s, so there was only $100,000 in coverage available. An asset search showed the other driver had no assets that would not be protected by Bankruptcy laws, so all we would ever be able to obtain for Fred was that $100,000.
If Fred would have had UIM coverage of $1,000,000 or more, we would have been able to get it due to the seriousness of his injuries. But he didn’t. True, it would be difficult to find that kind of coverage for a motorcycle anyway since most companies only write small policies on them. But if he’d have had a policy on his car of $1,000,000, we may have been able to obtain coverage there. So the lesson of this story is to get as much insurance coverage on yourself as you can afford, just in case the worst happens.
Fred was disappointed that there was so little coverage, and asked me what I thought I could do for him. After all, with so little coverage, what would he be able to get out of it by way of compensation? Would I be making a one third fee while he ended up with nothing?
So I explained that there are laws I can use to limit the amount of recovery that health insurance companies and others can take when there is a lawyer involved. Without a lawyer, he could settle the case for the other driver’s $100,000, but he would have to pay that money to his health insurance company since they are subrogated to any recovery he’d get. If he received money compensation from a third source and was paid benefits by his health insurance company upon which that compensation was based, by law he must pay the insurance company back for their subrogation interest. If that would have happened in Fred’s case, he’d have settled his case for $100,000 and received nothing for himself.
What I was able to do for Fred was use the law to force his health insurance company to accept approximately $12,000 instead of the $156,000 they paid out, so when I settled the case for Fred he was able to obtain a net recover of over $53,000. That’s a whole lot better than nothing.
To recap: get as much motorcycle and car insurance coverage on yourself as you can afford, but if you get seriously injured due to someone else’s negligence, hire an experienced lawyer who will maximize the amount of compensation you receive for your injuries.
At MacCloskey Kesler & Associates, we have handled thousands of car and motorcycle injury cases. We know the laws, and know how to use them to maximize your recovery even if it looks like you’re going to end up with nothing. So if you’ve been injured by someone else’s negligence while riding your motorcycle or driving your car, call us today for a free consultation at 815-965-2000, or toll free at 877-965-2100. Time limits apply so don’t delay.