Legal Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Get Your Injury, Accident, And Insurance Questions Answered By Attorneys Who Know The Law
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I don't have the cash to pay my medical expenses while my case is open. What should I do?
You should look to see if you have other insurance that might pay for your bills as your case is pending. For instance, you may have medical payments coverage on your automobile insurance policy. Medical payments coverage will pay your medical bills, up to a certain limit, regardless of whether the accident was your fault or the fault of the other driver. In Missouri, you do not have to reimburse your medical payments coverage out of any settlement your might receive from the other driver. If you do not have medical payments coverage, then you can submit your medical bills to your health insurance carrier. Be aware that many employer-provided health insurance carriers will seek reimbursement from you for the bills that they have paid when your case with the other driver is resolved. However, there are only certain circumstances where an employer-provided health insurance carrier does get repaid, and it is in your best interest to consult an attorney before you assume that your health insurance carrier must be reimbursed out of any settlement you receive from the other driver.
If you are on Medicare or Medicaid, you can have these government programs pay your bills while the case is pending. However, Medicare and Medicaid almost always get paid back at the time of settlement, so make sure Medicare or Medicaid knows that you have a personal injury claim pending with another driver so that repayment arrangements can be made at the time your case with the other driver is resolved.
Can't I get a partial settlement from the insurance company of the other driver to pay some of my bills?
In our experience, most insurance companies do not enter into "partial" settlements. Insurance companies typically do not pay money unless you sign some sort of release of all further claims. Signing a release can bar you from receiving any further money on the claim, so it is never a good idea to sign a release while you are still in active medical treatment. You should always wait until your medical condition has stabilized or, at least to the point where additional medical treatment doesn't seem to be helping your condition, before thinking about settling your case. You should use your health insurance, Medicare, Medicaid or medical payments coverage to pay your medical bills until your medical condition stabilizes.
The insurance company for the other driver offered me a settlement while I was hospitalized immediately after the accident. Should I accept this offer?
No! You should never settle your case right after your accident, especially if you are seriously injured. The only reason that an insurance company is going to offer you quick money is to get your case settled so that they don't have to pay any future medical expenses. You can be almost certain that the settlement that they are offering is worth far less than what you should be receiving. You should always contact a lawyer before accepting anything from an insurance company if you are seriously injured.
What is the statute of limitations on my automobile accident case?
In Missouri, you have 5 years from the date of the accident within which to sue the other driver. If you do not settle your case and you are coming close to the 5-year mark after your accident, you will want to get an attorney to file a lawsuit on your behalf.
The insurance adjuster for the other driver says I don't need a lawyer to settle my case. Is this true?
Not all cases require attorney involvement. If your injuries are minor and you only had a trip to the emergency room, there may be no danger in getting your case settled if you didn't have any further medical treatment after the emergency room. However, you must understand that insurance companies are in the business of making money. Their incentive is to pay you the least amount possible and to close their file.
If you have received a settlement offer and you aren't sure whether it is fair, feel free to call us at Bollwerk & Tatlow. We will be glad to listen to the facts of your case and tell you whether the settlement you are being offered is fair. If we think the offer is fair, then we will tell you so. If we think the offer isn't fair, then we may be able to help you secure a better settlement or, if not, we can fight your case in court.
How much is it going to cost me to hire the attorneys at Bollwerk, Ryan Tatlow?
At Bollwerk & Tatlow, we handle all of our personal injury cases on a contingent fee basis. That means that we do not get paid unless we secure money for you. Our fee is based on a percentage of your settlement or, if the case is tried, on a percentage of your verdict or judgment.
What is uninsured motorist coverage?
Uninsured motorist coverage is automobile insurance that pays you for your medical expenses, pain and suffering if you are in an automobile accident and the accident is the fault of another driver who does not have insurance. If you have an insurance policy in Missouri, then you have uninsured motorist coverage, as it is mandatory in Missouri.
What is underinsured motorist coverage?
Underinsured motorist coverage in Missouri is automobile insurance that covers you if the injuries you have sustained in an auto accident which was not your fault are greater than the insurance coverage afforded to the other driver that hit you. In other words, underinsured motorist coverage can pay you additional money if you receive all of the money available to the other driver under his or her insurance policy. Underinsured motorist coverage is not mandatory in Missouri, and you may or may not have this coverage. If you have this coverage, you probably paid an extra premium for it. If you are not sure whether you have underinsured motorist coverage, call your insurance agent.
Can I get compensation for my injuries if the accident was partly my fault?
Missouri is a "comparative fault state." This means that a person can be partially responsible for their own injuries and still receive compensation. The amount of the other persons responsiblity determines the amount of the other driver's responsibility. For instance, assume that you had an accident at an intersection. Another driver turned left while you were traveling straight. You struck the other driver at the rear of his vehicle. Even though the other driver turned in front of you, it could be argued by the other driver that you didn't do all you could to stop your vehicle or to avoid hitting his vehicle. If your case went to a jury trial, the jury might find that the other driver was 75% at fault for the accident and you were 25% at fault. Further, assume that the jury finds that your damages sustained in the accident were $60,000.00. Because the other driver is found by the jury to be 75% at fault for your injuries and damages, then you would receive 75% of $60,000.00, or $45,000.00.
What is "medical payments" coverage?
Medical payments coverage is an optional coverage that you can purchase as part of your automobile insurance policy. "Med pay" is a no-fault coverage, which means that the driver and/or passengers of your vehicle are entitled to the medical benefits regardless of who was at fault for the accident. The coverage will reimburse you or your passengers for medical expenses up to the policy limits. Because the liability insurance carrier of the other driver will most likely pay you nothing until your case is resolved, medical payments coverage can be a nice way to help you pay your medical expenses while your case is pending. Many hospitals and medical providers don't want to wait to get paid until your case settles, so medical payments coverage can really help you keep your medical providers happy while your case is open.