Do I still have a case if health insurance pays my medical bills?
People who have been hurt in accidents might have many questions about their eligibility for a damage award. After all, most Americans have health insurance, and if they are injured in a car crash or a workplace accident, they won’t wait for a court judgment to seek the medical care they need. In almost every instance, these people will get their surgery or see a doctor before the case ever heads to trial. Insurance companies often pick up the cost of these medical visits. Are these people still eligible to receive a damage award? In almost every instance, the answer is yes.
An opportunity for so-called double dipping
The law does not prevent individuals from receiving compensation for medical expenses even if their medical insurance paid for the costs. This is true for a number of reasons. Perhaps most importantly, it’s because the court system has more than one goal. It does have the goal of making people whole again when they suffer an accident, but it also has the goal of sending a message to the wrongdoer in hopes that people will be more careful in the future. Likewise, a monetary damage award is designed to demonstrate society’s care for the person who has been hurt, with money being a sign that society understands that person’s pain.
Insurance doesn’t cover everything
While insurance might cover the bulk of your costs when you’re injured in an accident, it might not cover everything. Will insurance cover a long hospital stay? Will it cover the full cost of an expensive surgery you might need? Will it cover your transportation costs? You still have a claim for all of the extra costs that insurance won’t cover in addition to those costs that insurance will pay for. Even people who have the best medical insurance plans out there will tell you that an accident can test the limits of their coverage.
Coincidental costs still come into play
Being hurt can bring to bear a number of different out of pocket obligations. You might incur costs associated with putting family members in hotel rooms. Any cost that is incurred directly as a result of the injury can be recovered in your lawsuit. This means that even if you find yourself in a situation where insurance has covered your medical bills, you’ll be able to claim the coincidental costs that go along with your situation. Good lawyers can help you tabulate just how much you’ve suffered financially.
The money you lose when you miss work
There are some lucky people who receive their paycheck whether they come to work or not. Others only get paid when they punch a clock or sign the ledger. If you happen to miss work as a result of an accident, your lost past wages can be reclaimed in a lawsuit. Some people might have insurance to cover this, but most do not. Even if you have that insurance, you can still double-recovery on the same theory presented above in the explanation of medical insurance double-dipping.
Loss of future income
In addition to lost past wages, you might also be eligible to collect if you are going to lose future income as a result of an injury. For instance, if you depended on your hands to do jewelry work and an accident caused you to have a permanent shake, then you could recover the wages you will miss out on in the years to come. These calculations can often be fuzzy, so good lawyers are helpful in providing you with a sense of just how much you can ask for in a settlement or trial.
Pain and suffering
You will also have a claim for pain and suffering, two things no insurance policy can account for. The court system seeks to make you totally whole, so it must account for all of the pain you have suffered. Putting a dollar figure on that pain and suffering is a challenge both for lawyers and jurors. What is certain is that in today’s court system, you do stand a great chance of receiving a payout if you have been forced to live through some amount of serious pain as a result of your accident.