This is a hard reality for those injured in car accidents. It can also put the injured person in a very difficult position. The issue will come up most frequently for those that can least afford it, those who lack insurance coverage to get the medical treatment they need.
Those that have insurance can use their auto insurance MedPay coverage to get treatment. They can also use their private health insurance. These options are simply not available to many. Getting medical treatment after an auto accident without insurance can be a challenge to say the least.
There are many facets to this problem. First, the other driver’s insurance company is not going to pay for medical damages until they have fully investigated the claim. Neither will they settle until the injured party has agreed to a full release of claims. In fairness to insurance companies, it makes perfect sense to want proof of claims before paying them. However, minimizing payouts, not fairness, is typically the insurance company‘s motivation.
Many insurance companies begin with the baseline argument that there is liability on the part of their driver. Even when liability is clear, the insurance company may start with a position that it was equally or partially your fault. They do this to invoke comparative negligence principals to reduce their own liability.
Thus, the first challenge is to show or prove to the insurance company that its driver was at fault and therefore responsible for all damages. The next part of the investigation will involve actually proof of damages. This will include proof of medical damages.
Again, insurance companies may start with the proposition that there were no injuries or that the injuries were unrelated to the accident. In short, the insurance company may attempt to prove that the injuries were preexisting and therefore not subject for recovery. This too will take some work on the part of your attorney.
The attorney will prepare a comprehensive demand package which basically outlines the facts, the damages, the law, and liability. As part of the damages portion, the attorney will carefully chronicle all medical treatment and costs associated with the accident. All supporting medical documents, records and bills will be provided in advance where possible.
However, with some insurance companies, no matter how obvious the liability and damages, they will still fight for every nickel. It is not fair, yet it is also not uncommon. In these cases, the insurance company may request years of prior medical records still in an attempt to prove preexisting injuries. They may also be trying to find inconsistencies with statements given by the injured person.
This brings us to two more important points. First, don’t talk to the other side’s insurance company without first consulting with an attorney. Second, be honest about your prior injuries or health conditions. It is safe to assume that inconsistencies will be discovered. Dishonesty is far more difficult to deal with than any preexisting injury. Preexisting injuries or conditions will not necessarily harm your claim while dishonesty almost always will.
Having said all that, this discovery process (process of collecting information) can take a very long time. And it generally does not begin until you have finished treating or reached maximum medical improvement. Only once all the records have been collected and provided with the demand package will the settlement process begin. The settlement process itself can takes months and often requires filing suit to recover for your damages.
In short, the process is very long. In the meantime, you may need medical treatment yet lack the resources to obtain them. A personal injury attorney experienced in automobile accidents can assist you through a very difficult time. Many times the attorney will be able to get you necessary medical treatment without compromising the value of your claim through a quick settlement.
Keep this in mind when the insurance company makes a quick small offer of settlement. Rest assured, no matter what they say, this will not be in your best interests.