There was a time, as recently as 10 to 12 years ago, when the primary purpose of hiring an attorney in an injury case was to maximize the recovery. Attorneys devoted their efforts on any given file seeking to tell the story of the client, what the client experienced and how the client was injured, how the client treated, whether the client has fully recovered, etc., in an effort to seek full and fair compensation for the client.
Now we must wear a second hat. In addition to clashing with the auto insurance companies to extract the full recovery for you, we must additionally fight to protect those dollars from increasingly aggressive health insurance companies wanting to cut in front of you and take your recovery as their own.
Health insurance companies are constantly asserting liens if they have paid any of your bills. Some of these liens are not valid. Others are valid but horribly miscalculated. Due either to incompetence or greed, they often attempt to siphon dollars away from you for treatment that had nothing to do with your injury case.
If you at any time use the medical payments coverage of your auto policy, your insurance company may very well want that money back. (The fact that you paid additional dollars to protect yourself with this additional coverage carries exactly zero weight under current law.)
If you don’t have an attorney, medical providers (hospitals, doctors, physical therapists, etc.) might extract this coverage (that you paid for) out from behind your back, and leave you holding the bag when the insurance company wants that money back later in the case. Some medical providers have you sign various forms which allegedly permits them to directly bill the other driver’s insurance! This literally means that you could be seriously injured in a car accident by a driver who was responsibly insured, require extensive medical treatment, and ultimately recover nothing because the wrongdoer’s coverage was swiped away from you while you were still recovering. This would be an unprecedented, devastating blow to injured people, but the Ohio Supreme Court in a recent case might have opened the door to this.
Accordingly, what you sign, when you sign it, what you do not sign, whom you speak to, whom you do not… all of these decisions can have massive impact on your ability to be compensated for the correct amount at the appropriate time. The hospital emergency room, not surprisingly, isn’t concerned about whether you obtain a fair recovery once you finished treating; they just want their bill paid. And so the forms they’ve begun asking you to sign place their interests in direct conflict with yours.
Someone needs to take control of your claim. If you don’t have an attorney, interests that are in direct conflict with you will swiftly move to out-maneuver you.
If you had an injury claim 15 or 20 years ago, this probably sounds like an alien world to you.
Unfortunately it’s the reality in which we currently live. The health insurance company who you pay high premium dollars to somehow is allowed to get their money back even though you get no credit for your premiums. Your auto insurance company to whom you may have been paying for medical payments coverage, often gets their money back even though that was coverage you bought and paid for. All of this just increases insurance company profits at your expense. When these practices began in earnest 10 or 12 years ago, they were justified as necessary to lower your premiums or at the very least to keep your premiums level. Obviously no one’s premiums went down or even stayed level, and this is simply another profit source for the insurance companies.