Finding yourself injured in a car accident can make for a difficult journey. Not only do you have to heal from the trauma of the accident and the physical injuries you’ve experienced, but you may find yourself at a financial disadvantage now. Your vehicle may be damaged, which could be an added level of frustration if you commute to your job or use your car for your job. On top of that, you may find yourself with a pile of medical bills while your attorney and your insurance company sort out what happened and what you’re entitled to.
After experiencing a car accident injury, your health insurance will be able to cover costs, depending on your individual coverage. In the meantime, who should pay those medical bills? Here are some of the most important questions you might have in this situation.
Let us say that you’re in a car accident and you are taken to the hospital. There, you’ll recover and incur medical expenses throughout your treatment. Your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance policy will cover those medical expenses in part or in full, and can grant you other protection as well (such as wages lost due to your injuries or rehabilitation costs).
If you require some kind of specialty care that isn’t covered under Personal Injury Protection, your private insurance should pay for any additional costs. If that happens, your private insurance will take what’s called a statutory lien on your case. Once your legal case is closed and you receive a settlement, your private insurance will be repaid the amount of that lien from the Personal Injury Protection policy.
A Personal Injury Protection policy does not cover everything. For instance, it doesn’t cover you if you are in an accident if you’re driving for work purposes, or if you’re in a driving accident while committing a crime. It doesn’t cover damage to someone else’s property or damage to your own vehicle. Those other bills you can pay out of pocket or pay through other auto insurance policies.
This might be where things get a little scary, and when having an attorney to represent your case will come in handy.
You may not have medical insurance of your own, or you may have to use medical providers outside of your regular insurance coverage. Maybe you were traveling out of the area where your insurance is accepted, so you incur out-of-network charges. Either you can pay those medical expenses out of pocket, or the insurance provider will take a lien out on the proceeds of your case. If they set a lien, your attorney can give the provider a Letter of Protection.
The Letter of Protection is a contract between the provider and the attorney and will be fulfilled when a settlement is reached in your case. This will give you some insulation and some breathing room, as it ensures that when your attorney receives the settlement money, they will pay the provider first out of the settlement you receive. It effectively gives the provider first shot at the settlement money, in exchange for putting off billing you immediately.
Oregon happens to be an “at-fault” state. If your actions caused the accident, you (and your insurance company) are responsible for paying for the damages, including any medical treatment. You could also be on the financial hook for other expenses like lost income and vehicle damage for the other party.
If you find yourself in this situation someday, one thing you can do to prevent confusion is to make sure you understand your current insurance policies, and strengthen them or get new ones if they don’t meet your needs. For example, liability insurance doesn’t apply to your own injuries or vehicle damage in Oregon, so you want to make sure you have that in addition to a Personal Injury Protection policy.
Not all accidents are straightforward, either. If you are partially responsible for the accident, you are still eligible for a settlement, as long as you’re less than 50 percent responsible. Dangerous weather conditions, slippery or confusing roadways or signage, and traffic light malfunctions are some common causes of accidents where you may be partially at fault.
The length of your insurance settlement can take longer than you think. We usually estimate that a personal injury settlement will take about two years to come to an agreement, but that may sound like too long for you to wait. Some of this time is allotted to you recovering from the accident, and physical therapy sometimes can take a while. You want to be closer to the end of your treatment before starting those proceedings, so your attorney may wait so that you are closer to being physically recovered. Then, records must be documented and collected as the case is worked and finally the settlement can be negotiated and agreed to.
If you’re concerned about having a medical lien on your case for that long, you might also be wondering how a lien affects the rest of your life. A lien doesn’t impact your credit score or your wages. The only impact this lien will have is on your medical bills and your settlement when it comes to completion.
That’s hard to say; there are so many factors in each case. It can also depend on what kind of medical problems you face on a day-to-day basis: do you have tense muscles, a smaller range of motion, or a preexisting injury that was made worse or created by the accident? Some of these are small and some are large. There is a maximum damage cap of $500,000, so you can’t receive more than this amount in a personal injury case in Oregon.
The expert team at Warren Allen Personal Injury Attorneys in Portland, Oregon will help you with legal representation and advice. If you have experienced a car accident injury, contact us today to learn about your options.