As an injury trial lawyer, I hear this from my clients frequently – “I didn’t do anything wrong…so why has MY life been turned upside down?” I’ve been in a car crash myself – one caused by the carelessness of someone else. All of a sudden, I found myself with medical bills, missed work, a totaled car. I was fortunate – I was able to take a few days off from work without being punished; I had health insurance to pay my medical bills; I had my own car insurance to replace my car while the at-fault carrier dragged their feet so they could “investigate”. Not everyone is so fortunate.
Many of my clients are paid by the hour. When they miss work, they lose money. When they lose money, they cannot provide for their families. While my clients almost always have liability coverage, which is required by law, they sometimes cannot afford full coverage for their own vehicles. Some clients have health insurance and some don’t. The folks without health insurance have a very difficult time finding someone to treat them. Even the people with health insurance find themselves struggling to find a physician to treat them once the physician knows the injury stems from a car crash.
So what can you do? You have the insurance you are supposed to have by law. You take care of your car and make sure that it is in good working order before you drive. You attend your yearly physical medical examinations to make sure that your health is solid. When you drive, you obey the rules – you were your seatbelt, you use your turn signals, you stop and yield when you are supposed to, you keep a proper lookout, you obey the speed limit. Yet, despite your adherence to the rules, one day you are driving down the street and another driver ignores a stop sign and changes your life. Now what?
There are things you can do prior to getting into a car accident to protect yourself.
To the extent possible, secure long term disability coverage. If your employer has short term disability coverage available to you, take it – this is true whether it is paid for by your employer or you have to buy in. If you do not have short term disability coverage available to you, to the extent possible, put money into savings – enough to cover your bills for 3 months in case needed. Try not to use all of your vacation and sick days. If you are allowed to roll over those days, even better – save up a reserve in case the unexpected happens.
Do all you can to secure health insurance. If you cannot, try to save some funds for unexpected medical expenses. If you find yourself in a situation where you need medical treatment and cannot afford it, talk to your personal injury attorney. Sometimes, doctors are willing to see patients on a lien basis – meaning they will hold their bill and not send you to collections while your injury case is pending.
Many people think they don’t need coverage for their own car because if someone else hits them, his/her insurance company will cover the damage. True, usually. But what if the careless driver didn’t have insurance? What if he/she did have insurance but the insurance company is challenging liability? Can you afford to be without a car while the insurance company takes its time performing an investigation? Always make sure your car insurance policy includes property damage for your own car. Also, secure MedPay coverage if you can. It is usually much cheaper than you would guess. MedPay coverage can really help you pay for your medical bills if you are injured.
If the crash has already happened and you are facing these problems, you may want to consult with an injury attorney. He or she can answer whatever questions you may have about the legal process and what you can do to protect yourself.