Author David M. Chester found of Chester Law Group Co., LPA 800-218-4243.
Sometimes potential clients come to my personal injury office and ask me if they need a lawyer. They say that the insurance company for the party at fault has offered their policy limits, which means they have offered all of the liability insurance that is available for the claim, according to the insurance policy. I tell people that a personal injury lawyer may still be helpful for many reasons.
First, any good personal injury attorney knows that there may be other insurance available that the client does not know about. For example, the owner of the car the at fault driver was in may have insurance, the at fault driver may have insurance, and these two policies can often be added together, or stacked, to increase the amount of available insurance. So just because the adjuster for the car owner says they are offering their insurance limits does not mean there is not more liability coverage. By settling with the one carrier, you will likely be eliminating your ability to use any other policies of insurance.
Second, even if there is no more liability coverage for the party at fault and the owner of the car he or she was in, your injury lawyer can often file an underinsured or uninsured motorist claim with your own auto insurance company. If your limits are larger than the combined limits of the liability policies, you can collect this excess amount. For example, if the owner of the car for the at fault party has $25,000 insurance and the driver has $12,500 insurance, the most you can collect from them combined is $37,500. If you have a $100,000 underinsured policy, you can collect up to an addition $62,500 from your company ($100,000-37,500) depending on your injuries and total value of your claim.
Third, besides using your own underinsured or uninsured motorist policy, your lawyer can also look for other underinsured or uninsured motorist policies with the owner of the car you were in, or even a policy for a family member you were living with at the time of the accident. You can usually collect an amount up the largest UM or UIM policy in this situation. You usually cannot stack the policies. Remember, just because you are told by some insurance adjuster that there is no more insurance, does not make it true.
Fourth, if the person at fault was on the job at the time of the accident and they are an employee of a company, that company is on the hook for the injuries that employee caused. It is called respondeat superior and it is a form of vicarious liability. The employer did nothing wrong, but they still have to pay you for what their employee carelessly did to you while on the job. Your car accident lawyer can find out if the party at fault was on the job at the time of the accident. Often you cannot.
Fifth, if you do exhaust all policies of insurance, your personal injury law firm can often negotiate reductions from doctors (when no applicable health insurance) or reduce or eliminate repayment to health insurance companies, Medicaid, Medicare or BWC. State and federal law allows for potential reduction or elimination of repayment for accident related medical bills paid by these public and private entities under certain circumstances.
If your attorney can reduce or eliminate how much you have to repay your private or public insurer, the savings can be massive, especially on larger cases with larger medical bills paid by insurance. Many times, when there is not enough auto insurance, you don’t have to repay any med pay money paid out by your own carrier under what is called the make whole doctrine. I bet your own insurance company never told you that.
You see, the less you repay them the more you put in your pocket. In larger cases, the amount of money the lawyer saves you by reducing or eliminating repayment can be more than his total legal fee. In other words, the lawyer pays for himself just by reducing your repayment obligations while allowing you to keep your insurance in most cases.
The point is that only an experienced personal injury lawyer knows where to look for all applicable insurance or parties liable to pay for your injuries, and only the lawyer can reduce or eliminate the amount you have to repay to health insurers in the unfortunate situation where there is not enough insurance. Don’t accept the policy limits of just one company. It could be the biggest mistake of your life.
If you have any questions about what an insurance company is offering you for settlement in a personal injury case do not hesitate to call the Ohio personal injury lawyers at Chester Law Group.