I was in a car accident as to which I was not at fault. I broke 2 metacarpel bones that required surgery and am currently undergoing extensive physical therapy. My medical bills will total approximately $20,000 and are being billed to my medical insurance. The tortfeasor has only the minimum limits of coverage ($15,000). My UIM coverage will kick in an additional $10,000, but even then it is insufficient to compensate me fully for my injuries. The tortfeasor was 18, not working at the time of the accident and does not have any other insurance to satisfy a claim. Would a lawyer be able to obtain a higher settlement than the $25,000 I'm looking at now? Will I need a lawyer to fight a reimbursement lien against my settlement (from my medical insurance company)?
I love your question!
Assuming everything you have said is correct, then you probably do not need a lawyer to obtain the 3rd party settlement AND the underinsured motorist settlement.
However, a lawyer may be of great assistance in negotiating your liens. The short story is that most lien holders will honor the "common fund" doctrine and automatically reduce your lien by one-third-----as a starting point! Without an attorney, the common fund doctrine does not apply. Perhaps an attorney could charge you just based upon the success of the lien reduction. All that being said, lien holders are usually not that sophisticated--- they just want some money! You may be able to negotiate "like a lawyer" by contacting them before executing a settlement and politely requesting that they agree to a lien reduction --in advance!!
Best of luck on this common, but difficult situation!
This is a very good question, my initial thought on your case is that you should be able to recover $25,000, which appears to be the coverage available. However, most injury attorneys have seen cases where it appears obvious that a policy limits offers is forthcoming only to be surprised with a less than appropriate offer.
In your situation, you have additional issues to contend with when it comes to reimbursement. Your health insurance carrier will seek reimbursement from any settlement obtained and these negotiations can be as consuming as dealing with the auto insurance carriers. Most personal injury attorneys offer free consultations, so there's nothing lost by consulting with a lawyer before making a decision.
As to whether you can recover more than $25,000 in this case, that depends on numerous factors unknown at this time. Generally, the answer is - yes. One can obtain more that the policy limits, however, only under certain circumstances. And for your case, it would be difficult to provide an answer without knowing more details.
Best of luck, again, I suggest you speak with an attorney before making a final decision.
Given the circumstances of your case, I believe that you would greatly benefit from a consultation with an attorney.
Without looking at the specific documentation relating to your case, it is hard to determine what kind of coverage may be available to you. I have had cases in the past where the at fault party claims to not be working, only for us to determine through discovery and litigation that they were within the course and scope of employment or that there is other insurance that covers them. Most attorneys offer a free consultation so it would be of great benefit to you to meet with an attorney who can take a look at the paperwork you have and see if there is anything that can be done or any avenues that they can pursue. At the very least, they can advise you as to the steps that you can take personally to settle your case on your own.
As for the liens, health insurance providers are entitled to reimbursement from a third party recovery. It is typically written into your contract. An attorney can help in some cases reduce those. Also, most health insurance providers are not entitled to reimbursement from a first-party claim (from money you recover from your insurance) so that is another potential issue you can discuss in your meeting.
A lawyer could assist you in determining that that this is truly the maximum amount of insurance coverage, verifying asset and income information for the defendant, determining if there are any other potential defendants, and negotiating reduction of the medical liens. Medical insurance liens can sometimes be waived off entirely with the assistance of an attorney.
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