How does the client walk away with any money at all if the medical expenses exceed the insurance policy limits of the person that hurt you? Take this hypothetical: Bill is run over by Anna and his medical expenses are $95,000 for his hospital bills and recovery care. Anna’s insurance policy limits are only $100,000. In other words, is it even worth it to hire a lawyer in this situation where an attorney’s fee would be 1/3 of the total recovery?
I recently did a speaking series on this topic and in this blog I will answer this question. Most of the time if you have a good lawyer that knows how to handle personal injury cases, it is absolutely worth hiring a lawyer. In the above scenario we take several approaches to maximizing the recovery and minimizing costs:
We evaluate our client’s collateral insurance coverages.When our team does an intake, we want to know all insurance coverages available to them – that might include health insurance coverage, medical payments coverage, etc. We can use these collateral coverages to offset or reduce the amount owed back to medical providers. We recently represented a young man that was hit by a car on his bicycle. He would have been fine but his hand went through the car window and he had to have minor surgery to remove the glass. In this case policy limits were $25,000, but medical expenses were $22,000. We utilized his health insurance and medical payments policy to offset and reduce the amount owed to $6,000. Our office doesn’t make a penny extra for this service and only has the effect of putting more money in the Client’s pocket when the case closes. In some cases health insurance companies might not even be entitled to reimbursement for money they have paid.
We utilize the client’s uninsured motorist coverage (UM coverage), and whether they have resident relatives where we can stack coverages.Brian was a former client and his femur was shattered when his buddy the driver, drove head on into an oak tree. Brian had a UM policy himself but he was home from college and living with his mom, and grown sister. We were able to “stack” Brian’s, Mom’s, and Sister’s UM coverage on top of the existing liability policy, and each of their policies was $25,000. So in a case where we had only a $25,000 liability policy, we stacked the 3 other UM policies on top of the liability recovery and recovered the full $100,000 available. The $36,000 in medical expenses were reduced to $18,000.
We will ALWAYS negotiate medical bills as low as possible.Thomas was a client who was thrown from his friend’s vehicle after he was driving erratically. Thomas spent 2 months at Grady hospital and incurred $900,000 of medical expenses on his way to recovery. He had no health insurance, and no uninsured motorist coverage. Under our threat of Thomas declaring bankruptcy for inability to repay $900,000, the hospital reduced his bills from $900,000 to $8,000. This is an extreme case but most providers will almost always reduce their bills from 25%-50%.
I will even cut my attorney’s fee if needed.We have a policy here at Ferguson & Paisley that no client will ever walk out of our office after closing a case with less than we come out with.
We analyze whether the insurance company has engaged in bad faith.
Insurance companies are required by law to negotiate fairly and to properly value claims. If they do not, then they could be liable for the full value of your injury, EVEN IF it exceeds the policy limits of the perpetrator. Earlier this year, Keith was hit head on and suffered various back injuries. His medical expenses were $19,000, and policy limits were $25,000. The insurance company initially only offered $9,000 - not even enough to cover his ER bill. Under the threat of an excess verdict and thus being liable for a potential bad faith judgment, after some litigation, the insurance company offered 10 times the original offer.
In all of these scenarios our clients went home happy, and with money for future medical expenses and pain and suffering. When someone is injured it never hurts to talk to a lawyer and it’s almost always worth hiring one, especially with serious injuries.
James Paisley is a personal injury lawyer in Atlanta, GA, and managing partner at Ferguson & Paisley, L.L.C. He fights for victim’s rights when they are hurt due to someone’s negligence. Call him directly at 404.618.0960.
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