Here is a scenario: You’ve just been involved in a car accident. You then go to the hospital by ambulance. When you get to the hospital, they ask you for your auto insurance information. You give it to them. You also sign a number of papers that you really don’t even know what they are. You finally get called back. The doctor orders CT scans, x-rays, MRIs, etc. You are released from the emergency room and go home.
The next day, you get a call from the insurance company of the other driver. They are very polite and tell you that they are investigating a car accident claim. They said they must get a recorded statement from you as part of their investigation. You want to cooperate and give the recorded statement.
A few days later, you are still in pain and decide to go see a doctor. When you get to the doctor’s office, you are asked to sign a bunch of papers and they ask you for all the auto insurance information, including the other driver’s insurance. You give it to them.
About two weeks later, you get a call or letter from your health insurance company. They state that they are getting claims from the hospital and the doctor. They also say that it looks like these claims arise from a car accident. They tell you that they need the auto insurance information. You give it to them.
Now you are feeling overwhelmed. Everyone is coming at you from different directions and you don’t know what to do. You finally decide to call a car accident lawyer. Is this something that you should have done from the very beginning? Absolutely! Because, here are somethings that you did wrong from the very beginning.
1. Never give the auto insurance information to the hospitals or doctors. The medical profession is just like any other profession. They want to make money. More importantly, they want to make as much money as they can. In the scenario above, when you gave your auto insurance information to the hospitals and doctors, you essentially gave them the “keys to the vault.” When you give this information to the doctors, you give them the opportunity to bypass you and collect their bills directly from the auto insurance company. This may leave little or no money for you to collect. Had you called a lawyer from the very beginning, you would have been advised not to give out any of the auto insurance information. If you already did, then your lawyer would advise you to contact the hospital and insist that they bill your health insurance (which they are required to do).
2. Never give a recorded statement. Ask yourself this question: Why is the statement being recorded. The answer is simple. The insurance company wants the opportunity to use the statement against you if you pursue a personal injury claim. That is why I never consent to a recorded statement of my client. I am glad to share information with the adjuster as part of their investigation of the claim. But giving a recorded statement only sets my client up for problems.
3. Dealing with your health insurance company. Dealing with your health insurance company in a personal injury matter can be very complicated. When you give them the auto insurance information, then they will probably send a notice asserting a right of reimbursement in the event there is any settlement in your case. Now, you have just put yourself at a huge disadvantage. The rights of your health insurance company depend on many factors: the language of the policy, the type of insurance involved the type of claim being made by you, the amount of auto insurance available to settle our case, etc. These are all things that effect your health insurance company’s reimbursement claim. Unless you have a clear understand of the relative rights of all the parties involved, you cannot protect your rights.
4. A hospital lien or ambulance lien. When you go to the hospital after an accident, the hospital may assert a lien on your personal injury case. That lien takes priority over who gets paid and how much. There are some things your can do to protect yourself. One thing is to give them your health insurance information and demand that they bill your health insurance. The hospital will probably tell you that they are required to bill the auto insurance first. That is a complete falsehood. Another thing to keep in mind is that you are not required to go to the hospital if you do not want to. You may decline ambulance transport and just go to a minor emergency clinic. Since these clinics do not qualify as a “hospital,” they cannot file a lien. Additionally, if you do go to the hospital, be aware that they may want to pump up their bill, especially since they know they might be able to assert a lien. CT scans is one way hospitals can quickly run up a bill. You have the right to refuse service at a hospital. I am not suggesting that you should compromise your health. I am just saying to be aware of the situation and do not be afraid to vocalize your concerns if you feel like the hospital is taking advantage of the situation.
5. Failing to call a lawyer. This is is biggest mistake you can make in your case. Had you called a lawyer from the very beginning, the lawyer would have declined giving a recorded statement, and would have protected your auto insurance claim for your benefit rather than the sole benefit of the doctors. Only a lawyer knows how to protect your rights against all the other players in your case. That is why you need to hire an experienced car accident attorney as early as possible.