I recently met with an older couple who live on a fixed retirement income. They have a small estate and 2 older models used cars in good operating conditions. The wife had been hurt in an auto accident and sustained nerve injury to her lumbar spine. The adverse driver admitted fault for the accident but only carried the minimal required limits of $15,000.00 for liability. Unfortunately, my client’s billings quickly exceeded $44,000.00 including pain management injections to treat her nerve injuries, which had to be performed in a surgical center. So how does one pay for medical bills that are virtually triple the only available auto insurance proceeds?
Unfortunately, I see this exact problem all too often for totally innocent crash victims!
Fortunately, we were able to solve our client’s dilemma by negotiating with the medical providers to accept steep discounts on their bills and to use Medicare and other health insurance so that all the bills and liens were paid using only a little more than $8000.00 of the available $15,000.00. We also voluntarily reduced our fee by approximately $2,000.00 (from the contractual rate of $5,000.00) so that our client was able to receive a net, tax-free amount of slightly over $3000.00 in her pocket. We made the best lemonade we could with the difficult lemons life had handed our client!
This story illustrates two very important tips for folks who want to protect themselves from a similar situation: first, I checked into my clients’ own auto insurance policy and discovered that their insurance agent had oversold them on liability insurance! My clients carried $250,000.00/$500,000.00 liability coverage (coverage that would cover someone they might crash into) but ZERO underinsured motorist coverage that would have been excess insurance to cover my client’s ongoing injuries, and more importantly, her ongoing pain and suffering from her permanent spine injury. Frankly, this was an outrageous failure on the part of the insurance agent. For example, my clients would have been much better protected by having a $50,000.00/$100,0000.00 policy that covered both liability for others AND underinsured motorist coverage for themselves. And–they would have had money left over in their annual/monthly premiums! I helped them contact a reputable insurance agent who is getting them quotes for new coverage that will protect them in the future. Remember, your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage should always EQUAL your liability coverage! You don’t have to be an insurance-poor in order to have the best coverage for yourself and your family.
The second lesson is that personal injury attorneys who work on a contingency fee agreement–typically one-third of the recovery-should ALWAYS charge a reasonable fee, and voluntarily reduce their fee so that it is never more than what the client victim receives in his or her pocket. Ask your attorney if he follows this practice!
I am proud that my firm has been helping citizens resolve their accident-related problems while charging reasonable fees for over 30 years in the Southern Nevada area! It’s the right thing to do.