Medical Expenses After an Automobile Accident

Medical Expenses After an Automobile Accident

All it takes is one motor vehicle accident to completely change your life. If you are seriously injured in a crash, you may face a lifetime of medical treatment and therapy. You may not be able to return to work, or you may be forced to find a new occupation. If the driver who hit you does not have auto insurance or enough coverage to pay for all of your medical expenses, you will have to find a way to pay for them yourself. Visit hereĀ do I need to go to an emergency room following a car accident.

Considering the types of catastrophic injuries that can occur in auto accidents, including traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries, medical bills easily can reach hundreds of thousands of dollars. Even with health insurance, the costs of deductibles and co-payments may be more than you can afford.

According to the most recent statistics from the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), more than 267,000 people were injured in automobile crashes in the state in 2007. Of those injured, more than 89,000 suffered serious injuries. Based on these numbers, TxDOT estimates that one person is injured in a car accident on Texas roadways every 1 minute and 58 seconds. Further, current statistics place the number of uninsured drivers in the state around 4 million, or 15-20% of all drivers, making your chances of becoming involved in a crash with an uninsured driver too high to ignore.

-Protecting Yourself from Bankruptcy

If you are involved in a car accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver and do not have your own insurance or enough insurance to cover your medical expenses, you may have to consider filing for bankruptcy. Mounting medical bill debt accounts for 50% of all bankruptcies filed in the US. A study conducted by Harvard University found that the majority of those filing for bankruptcy due to medical bills were middle class wage earners who had health insurance at the beginning of their illness or injury, but then lost their insurance coverage prior to filing for bankruptcy protection.

In one of the wealthiest countries in the world, it seems unfair that people should have to file for bankruptcy because they needed medical treatment for injuries, especially when those injuries were caused by someone else. As the current economy worsens and hard-working people lose their jobs and, as a consequence, their health insurance, what can people do to decrease the possibility of being forced to file for bankruptcy following a car accident?

-Check Your Auto Insurance Coverage

Making sure you have sufficient auto insurance coverage is one of the most important ways you can protect yourself and your family from uninsured drivers.

-Liability Insurance

Texas state law requires every driver to carry liability insurance. Liability insurance only covers the property damage and medical expenses you may cause to others in an accident – it does not provide any coverage for your own losses. The current minimum liability coverage is $25,000 for each injured person up to $50,000 total per accident and $25,000 total for property damage per accident. These amounts will increase to $30,000 per injured person up to a $60,000 maximum per accident in 2011.

If you are in an accident with a driver who only maintains liability insurance on his or her vehicle, $25,000 may not be enough to cover your medical expenses, especially if you are seriously injured. However, if you carry uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM), then your own auto insurance policy will help cover your unpaid medical expenses.

-Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage

Texas state law requires every insurance company to offer UM/UIM coverage. UM/UIM coverage protects you if you are in an accident and the at-fault driver does not have auto insurance or does not have enough auto insurance to pay the full costs of your losses. UM/UIM coverage also provides benefits if you are in a hit-and-run accident and the other driver is never identified.

UM/UIM coverage on your auto policy will cover all injuries and damages caused by the at fault driver, including but not limited to:

* Medical bills

* Lost wages

* Pain and suffering

* Disfigurement

* Physical impairment

* Funeral expenses

The policy also covers property damage to your vehicle, including repair costs, rental car expenses and loss or damage to items in the car, after you pay a $250 deductible. There is no deductible for bodily injury coverage. UM/UIM policies cover the driver, the driver’s family, passengers in the vehicle and anyone to whom the driver gave permission to drive the vehicle. More importantly, by law the insurance company cannot raise your premiums for making a UM/UIM claim. This is because such claims are based on the fault of the other driver.

You are not required to have UM/UIM coverage, but every driver should. Adding the coverage to your insurance policy is not all that expensive. You should look at having a minimum UM/UIM policy of $500,000. In order to carry a high limit on your UM/UIM coverage, you will have to carry the same amount for your liability coverage.

It is important to note that it costs very little to obtain coverage that exceeds the minimum required by law. You should check it out. Are you more concerned about protecting others or protecting yourself? Given the large number of drivers without car insurance and the high potential of being in a car accident at least once in your life, carrying sufficient UM/UIM benefits can mean the difference between paying your medical bills and being forced into bankruptcy.

-Personal Injury Lawsuits

If you are injured in an accident and have unpaid medical bills from the injuries caused by the accident, you have the right to file a personal injury lawsuit against the responsible driver.

An attorney can review your case and determine the most appropriate sources of recovery for your injuries. Even if the other driver did not have auto insurance, it does not mean he or she escapes liability. In some cases, you may have a claim against an insurance company instead of the driver. For example, the liable party’s insurance company may not have provided you the full amount of compensation you are owed. In other cases, your own insurance company may not have paid out the UM/UIM benefits you are entitled.

Conclusion

Responsible drivers who have auto insurance should not be forced into bankruptcy when they are injured by irresponsible drivers who do not have insurance or enough insurance to pay for their medical bills. Until there are changes in the health care system and people do not have to make the choice between keeping a roof over their heads and paying for medical treatment, it is important that drivers are proactive and have sufficient uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.

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