Insurance Alert - don't be caught with too little.
by Fred A. Pharis, J.D.
This scenario has played itself out time and again at my office.
A client comes in and has suffered moderate injuries in an automobile accident, caused totally by the fault of the other driver. He or she has medical bills owing, can't work for at least a period of time and doesn't know what's going to happen with regard to eventual recovery. It turns out that there is a serious medical problem, with a knee, a back, a neck, a hand, or a foot. Surgery is required. However, there is no private health insurance to pay for this. Or, the accident happened while the client was on a mission for the employer, so the medical bills are taken care of. Unfortunately, the person at fault only has bare minimum of coverage. Uninsured motorist coverage, which is designed to pay you damages over and above the limits that the person who is fault chooses, has not been taken out by my client, or is grossly inadequate. So, what happens to the client's claim?
If the client is lucky, there will be enough money for payment for the surgery either through worker's comp or the other person's insurance. However, worker's compensation is entitled to be reimbursed fully for the money the w.c. insurer has spent. Medical services providers have "liens", or preferences to be paid, also. And, it's entirely possible that there will not be enough money to go around just for the surgery, much less to pay for lost wages and pain and suffering.. Do you really need that knee surgery that the doctor recommends? Is physical therapy that important to you if you need to recover? Yes, you should follow your doctor's advice. But, if there's not enough insurance to go around, and you've been out of work, it's sometimes a choice between groceries for the family or needed medical services. Families usually come first.
If only the client had paid extra for uninsured motorist benefits, he or she wouldn't be endangering his family's financial health because of doctor's bills, loss of use of the car, or inability to work. And, he or she wouldn't be bitter when he thinks about the pain and agony some injuries inflict on the human body, and the fact that there is no compensation for that aspect of the claim.
Before you say, oh, the pain and suffering, that's what's wrong with our system, too many people claiming a bad back or a vague pain and they want thousands of dollars. Before you throw the baby out with the bathwater, consider the case of Moe, a fictional name for an actual client.
A family man, married, with two small children, a worker all his life, a part-time preacher, a wife who worked at local drugstore chain. A car pulled out in front of him and he ended up on a median with a smashed car and a damaged left knee. He hadn't been on his new job long enough to have private medical insurance. Medical bills ended up being almost $14,000.00 before the doctor-recommended knee surgery. Available insurance was $20,000.00, not enough left over for knee surgery. Moe limps around, needing medical treatment he just can't afford. He's understandably bitter about the fact that he can't get on the floor to play with his two daughters anymore, that most employer's don't want to take a chance on a man with limited physical abilities, and that he can only afford over the counter medications for the pain that comes back night after night.
Buy UM insurance, at least $100,000.00 worth, even more if you can afford it. With today's crowded highways, you just don' t know if you'll be next.