How Are Medical Bills Handled In A Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Understandably, a recently injured personal injury client will often have concerns over the potential amount of medical bills they will incur and how the bills will be paid. The bills from an accident can accumulate quickly particularly if the client was seen in a hospital following the accident. Here at JB Law we help our clients understand the best way to have the bills resolved.
According to Florida Statute 768.81, “contributory fault chargeable to the claimant diminishes proportionately the amount awarded as economic and noneconomic damages for an injury attributable to the claimant’s contributory fault, but does not bar recovery.” This means that the damages (money) you are awarded for your injuries are reduced by the percentage of fault that the jury allocated to the plaintiff (you).
Personal Injury Protection (“PIP”)
Under Florida Statute 627.736, every motorist who purchases a Florida automobile insurance policy is required to carry $10,000.00 in PIP benefits under their automobile insurance policy. The PIP coverage is used to cover medical bills and lost wages that a driver incurs because of a motor vehicle accident regardless of which party is at fault for the accident.
For example, if Driver A is not paying close enough attention to the road and rear-ends Driver B, it is safe to assume that Driver A caused the accident. Regardless, the first $10,000.00 in medical payments for Driver B’s injuries will come from Driver B’s automobile insurance policy. Countless clients have expressed frustration with this system often stating something to the effect of “why is my insurance paying for expenses when the other driver caused the accident?” That is how the system is set up in Florida and has been over for over 40 years. There is a statute that prevents your insurance company from raising your rates for an accident that was caused by someone else.
However, your automobile insurance company will stop covering you as soon as it has paid $10,000 in medical bills from the accident. For those clients injured in a way other than in a motor vehicle accident, PIP will not apply.
If you are injured in a premises liability case (slip/trip and fall) or in a manner unrelated to a motor vehicle accident, you have a couple of options for handling your medical bills. The first option is to go through your health insurance assuming you are covered. In that scenario, the client will often have to pick a physician from their health insurance plan and be treated by that doctor while paying all relevant deductibles and co-pays. However, in the event that we recover money for the client who uses health insurance for medical bills, the health insurance company will have a right of subrogation (lien). This means that the health insurance company has a legal right to be paid back at least a percentage of what they were forced to pay due to the negligence of the person or entity who caused the client’s injuries.
The process of handling subrogation with a health insurance company is typically pretty straightforward. The health insurance company will notify JB Law of the amount of their lien, which is equivalent to the total amount of medical bills paid by the health insurance company related to the injuries from the incident in the case. At the conclusion of a successful lawsuit either by settlement or a verdict at trial, JB Law will notify the health insurance company and begin to negotiate the amount of the lien. Typically, the health insurance company will reduce the amount of the lien by the percentage of the attorneys’ fees. So, if the lien is $10,000.00 and the attorneys’ fees are 40%, the lien will be reduced by $4,000.00 to a total of $6,000.00. In other scenarios, where the case is a particularly challenging case, JB Law can proactively negotiate the amount of the lien with the health insurance company prior to the conclusion of the lawsuit.
Letter of Protection
Many personal injury clients do not have health insurance, nor do they have the means to pay for expensive medical bills out of their pockets. In those scenarios, JB Law can work with excellent local doctors who will treat JB Law clients with the understanding that they will paid be at the conclusion of the case. This medical treatment is performed pursuant to a Letter of Protection, which provides the treating physician with a right to be paid at the conclusion of the lawsuit. Otherwise, without a Letter of Protection, an injured client would not have the ability to be seen by a doctor. Due to our experience and standing in the community, JB Law has the ability to work with some of the finest doctors in Florida.
Amount Point of Contention in Litigation
I have litigated and tried countless cases involving motor vehicle accidents and premises liability against all of the major insurance carriers and stores in Florida. Do not trust your personal injury case to a firm that does not actively litigate and try cases. Do not fall victim to one of the advertising firms where you will get lost in the shuffle and just become a number in a file cabinet.
At JB Law, all clients are given the attention they deserve and are provided with my personal cell phone. It is not my “work” cell phone. It is my only cell phone. My clients can always reach me and always know what is going on with their case. If you ever have any questions about your legal rights, please reach out to me on either my cell phone 305-803-1865 or my office line 561-717-9551.