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Need for Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Unfortunately,  I have seen in the last couple of months more than a few times where people have stated that they do not want uninsured motorist coverage. In Delaware, specifically, you have to affirmatively state you do not want uninsured motorist coverage after being informed of what it would cost.

What is has happened in two different cases recently is one client has not been able to receive any fair money for any injuries as a result of the collision since the person that struck him was uninsured, and he did not have uninsured motorist coverage.

In another case, a person could not receive fair money for her injuries because the driver of her vehicle did not have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.

I realize people want to save money as best as they can. However, a quick call to an insurance agent or go online, you will find uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is not very expensive. That coverage can help you get fair money for injuries that were the cause of someone else not obeying the rules of the road.

Over my almost 37 years of doing this, I have seen it happen all too often. People are saving themselves probably a couple hundred dollars a year, and when a collision happens either they are hit by an uninsured driver, or their injuries are much more severe than the coverages the person that struck them has. You can always sue the person that hit you, but if they are uninsured or have very little insurance, 99 times out of 100 they are not going to have any money to go after even if you get a successful settlement against them.

For everyone’s sake, ask your insurance company how much it costs for uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. I would think almost everyone can find a way to afford that. Hopefully, you will never be in motor vehicle collision. However, thousands every year are involved in motor vehicle collisions.  You do not want to be someone who is hurt and cannot receive fair money for their injuries,  or only receive partial money for their injuries.

Your Right to the Payment of Medical Bills after a Car Accident

When you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, your first step if typically to notify your insurance company. But you can have a wide range of losses and have little understanding of which insurance company will pay for which losses. Do all medical claims have to be filed with your health insurance provider? What losses will your auto insurance company cover?
The answer, unfortunately, is that it depends on a number of factors, including the type of accident, the type of insurance you have and the state where you reside.

Medical Bills

There is no requirement that the person who caused the accident pay your medical expenses. In most instances, that happens, but not on an ongoing basis. Typically, you’ll file a lawsuit and your medical expenses will be covered in a settlement or verdict. However, don’t expect the at-fault driver to pay medical expenses as they are incurred.

If you live in a state with “no-fault” insurance, your motor vehicle insurance provider will customarily pay your medical expenses, regardless of who was at fault. Be careful, though, as there may be a limit on the amount that the insurance company will pay for the whole claim—that amount is frequently $10,000 or less. You can purchase additional coverage, with an additional premium.
When your insurance company pays the costs of medical care, but you were not at fault, the company will typically seek reimbursement from the at-fault party’s insurer through a legal process called subrogation. In that process, the insurance companies typically negotiate or litigate how much each will pay.

A word of caution—don’t expect your insurance company to be real cooperative when you have been hurt in a car accident. Insurance companies make their money by minimizing payouts on claims. You can expect delays, denials and attempts to diminish the value of your claim. That’s why it’s so important to have an attorney representing you at all times.

Contact the Law Office of Michael J. Hood

At the law office of Michael J. Hood, in Wilmington, we bring more than 30 years of experience to personal injury victims in Delaware and Pennsylvania. For a free initial consultation,
contact us online or call our office at 302-777-1000 for an appointment.

Use of Health Insurance, Medicaid, or Medicare

If you are involved in any type of motor vehicle accident, you need to initially file any loss claims through your own auto insurance provider. But what if you are injured because of someone else’s carelessness or negligence, but it’s not in a motor vehicle accident. If you have Medicaid, Medicare or private or employer-sponsored health insurance, you should promptly go to your doctor or the hospital, if necessary, to get the treatment you need, and file a claim for any medical expenses through your health insurance provider.

It’s important to understand, though, that if you file a lawsuit for injuries received, if you recover financial compensation for medical expenses, any insurance benefits you received prior to the judgment or settlement in the lawsuit will have to be repaid, under a legal concept known as “subrogation.” Essentially, the insurance company has advanced you the money to pay for medical care, and is entitled to reimbursement, if you recover any amount in a lawsuit.

The rights of Medicare and Medicaid to recover funds paid to you are set forth in federal and state law. Both Medicare and Medicaid will almost always accept 1/3 less of what is owed, because your attorney is generally taking 1/3 of your recovery from the person, or business that caused your injury.

With private or employer-sponsored health insurance, there is typically a subrogation clause in your policy, entitling the insurance company to some level of reimbursement if you recover money pursuant to legal action. Some insurance companies will accept 1/3 less, and others will ask for full reimbursement of any amounts paid. It is up to your attorney to try to negotiate it as best as possible to get them paid.

From my perspective, the most important thing you need to do after an accident is get healthy. Money is going to come and go, but your health is something that you want to maintain as best as possible throughout your life. You do not go to the doctor to make money. You go to the doctor or doctors to get healthy.

You never want to stop going to a doctor because of fears about money, and end up with a problem that could have been resolved by going to the doctor, therapy, or whatever else the doctor prescribed for you to do.

Contact Our Office

To arrange a free initial consultation, contact us online or call our office at (302) 777-1000. Evening and weekend meetings can be arranged upon request. We will come to your home or the hospital, if necessary.

The Need to Call Your Own Insurance Company Immediately After a Motor Vehicle Collision

Calling insurance agentWhen you purchase auto insurance, make certain that you have what is known as PIP, or personal injury protection. PIP is typically no-fault, so it will provide coverage regardless of who is at fault in the accident. PIP will cover medical expenses and/or lost wages for a specific period of time after the accident. In Delaware, PIP generally runs for two years from the date of the collision, but in Pennsylvania, it can be two years from the date of your last treatment.

It’s important to understand, though that you need to contact your insurance company immediately and notify them of your accident. They will send you the forms that you need to complete to get reimbursement or payment for medical bills paid, as well as lost wages.

There are often delays in obtaining reimbursement of lost wages, as the insurance company must send the form to your employer, and can’t reimburse you until the forms are returned by the employer. Unfortunately, employers are frequently slow in providing the required information, for a variety of reasons. To expedite your claim, you should continue to follow up with your employer to make sure wage information is provided to the insurance company. Though the insurance company may also contact your employer to move the process along, it’s in your best interests to initiate your claim as soon as possible, and to regularly communicate with your employer about the need to provide the information. You can often encounter delays and stalling strategies, but,with an attorney’s help, you can get your wages as quickly as possible.

If there are any unpaid bills arising out of the collision, and you are not yet represented an attorney, forward those bills to your insurance company immediately. If you don’t, you may run the risk that the service provider will report you as delinquent, which will have a detrimental impact on your credit score.

If you have an attorney, give any bills related to the accident to your lawyer as soon as possible. Your attorney will immediately forward those bills to the insurance adjustor handling your PIP/no-fault claim. If you continue to receive the same bills, keep giving them to your lawyer. Many times things fall through the cracks and a good attorney will follow up with the adjustor to get the bills paid.

It may seem strange that your own insurance picks up the medical bills and/or lost wages. But that is how it works in both Delaware and Pennsylvania, and it’s a good law. Without PIP/no fault, you would have to wait for the other party’s insurance company to pay for your medical bills and/or lost wages, and you could wait a long time.

Contact Us

For a free initial consultation, contact us online or call our office at (302) 777-1000. Evening and weekend meetings can be arranged upon request. We will come to your home or the hospital, if necessary.

Motor Vehicle Collisions

Car accidentOne of the most common mistakes people make after being involved in a motor vehicle collision is failing to call the police. In Pennsylvania, law enforcement officers generally won’t come to the scene of an accident unless there is an apparent injury. In Delaware, though, they will generally always come if they are called.

One of the most important things you need to do in the aftermath of an accident is get the best contact information you can about other drivers and witnesses, so that your attorney will be able effectively put together your case. All too often, people get some information from the other driver, but fail to obtain the complete name and address, making it extremely difficult for their lawyer to identify the at-fault parties.

This failure becomes exceptionally problematic if you have to take legal action to recover full compensation for your losses. Under either Delaware or Pennsylvania law, you must sue the at-fault party personally. Without full name and address, this can be difficult or even impossible.

The Information You Need to Get after an Accident

Any time you are in a motor vehicle collision, get all the information regarding the driver. That includes name and address, along with all insurance information. The other driver should be carrying an insurance card with all relevant information, including the name of the company, and policy number. The insurance card should also have a direct dial number that you can call to reach the insurance company..

If you are involved in an accident in Delaware, you should always call the police. It cannot hurt. If you see someone hanging around, ask if they saw the collision. If they did, politely ask them for their name, number, and address. Don’t wait for the police arrive to question witnesses. A witness may not stick around, and then they can be lost forever.

Do yourself a favor and get that information. It will help you to a great extent down the line.

Contact Our Office

To arrange a free initial consultation, contact us online or call our office at (302) 777-1000. Evening and weekend meetings can be arranged upon request. We will come to your home or the hospital, if necessary.

Necessity of Having Adequate Insurance

For people that are involved in a motor vehicle collision in either Pennsylvania or Delaware, there are different types of insurance in which you pay. In terms of a personal injury accident, the main ones to consider are what they call Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and Uninsured / Underinsured.

PIP is for your insurance company to pay your medical bills and/or lost wages for a period of time. Delaware has a different time limit as opposed to Pennsylvania. However, that is the way you get your medical bills paid when you are injured and seek treatment, and that is how your get your lost wages paid up to the limits of insurance that you have. You can not go after the other person that struck you for medical bills and/or lost wages until the amount of PIP insurance available through your own insurance company has been spent. Also, that can not be done until you try to resolve the case. That can be a long time.

The minimum in both states is generally $15,000.00 per person. That may seem like a lot of money, but it can turn out to be very little money depending on your injury.

There is also what they call Uninsured / Underinsured motorist coverage. Uninsured coverage is when the person that struck you does not have insurance.

Underinsured motorist coverage is when the insurance on the vehicle that struck you does not have enough insurance to give you fair money for the injuries you sustained.

Again, in Pennsylvania and Delaware the minimum is $15,000.00 per person.

A person can only spend what they can for insurance. However, every time someone comes into my office with a motor vehicle case and they have the minimum amount, I tell them for future reference to contact their agent and find out how much higher levels of PIP and uninsured /underinsured motorist coverage would be. Generally, they find out the amount is not much more than having a $15,000.00 policy as opposed to having a $50,000 or $100,000 policy. If it can be afforded, I strongly urge them to get the higher amount of coverage.

The obvious reason is you have more coverage for your injuries and you do not have to go through other types of insurance that will want it’s money back, or you do not have additional insurance, end up having bills that can not be paid until you go against the personal responsible. Even more importantly, lost wages which can not be paid until you do the same. Many times the other side may not have enough coverage to pay pain and suffering along with medical bill and lost wages. The price of medical treatment is extremely high, and no one knows how much wages they may end up losing.

The same holds true for uninsured / underinsured motorist coverage. If you are hurt very badly and the other side has a minimum of $15,000.00, and you only have $15,000.00 in coverage, in Delaware, that would only leave you with $30,000.00 of potential insurance coverage for your injuries, potential medical bills, and lost wages. In Pennsylvania, it could depend on other factors.

I have seen horror stories where people have been extremely injured as a result of the motor vehicle collision. However, the medical bills were well past the $15,000.00 they had in PIP, and the other side only had the minimum amount of liability coverage in the amount of $15,000.00. The result is, even if they were not at fault, they ended up with more medical bills than there was insurance coverage available. That did not even take into account compensation for their injuries.

This may sound complicated, but it is not. Again, the way to do it is to go to your agent and find out how much high levels of coverage for both PIP and uninsured/underinsured will cost you, per month or however you pay. If it can be afforded, it is very much in your interest to get the higher coverage.

Contact the Law Office of Michael J. Hood, LLC

Contact us online or call our office toll-free at (302) 777-1000 to arrange a free initial consultation. We are available to meet with you Monday through Friday, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., and evenings or weekends upon request. We will travel to your home or the hospital if necessary.

Common Car Accident Insurance Problems

What to Expect When You File a Claim for an Auto Accident Injury

When someone else’s negligence causes a motor vehicle accident and you are hurt, it would seem that recovering insurance would not be that difficult, particularly when circumstances clearly indicate who was at fault. But the process of obtaining compensation for auto accident injuries is often frustrating, confusing and intimidating. Here are some steps you can take to increase your chances of getting timely and fair compensation after a motor vehicle crash.

File Your Claim as Soon as Possible

You want to make certain that you get the medical care you require, but you also want to move as quickly as possible to file a claim. The longer you wait, the greater the risk that the insurance company will try to say your injury was not a result of the accident.

Know What Your Policy Covers and How Much You Can Recover

Be aware of limits of liability on your own policy. You also want to know if you have coverage for underinsured or uninsured motorists, in the event the other party did not have insurance, or only had insurance to cover damage to his or her vehicle. When you are hurt in a motor vehicle accident, your insurer typically pays some benefits up front and then seeks reimbursement from the at-fault party and his/her insurer, but there may be limits as to what your insurer will cover.

Keep All Relevant Evidence and Documentation

Don’t rely on police or others to conduct a thorough investigation of the accident. Take pictures at the scene, get statements from witnesses, and obtain a copy of the police report. Keep copies of all documents, but attach another copy of all evidence to your claim, as it may accelerate the process.

Contact Our Office

To arrange a free initial consultation, contact us online or call our office at (302) 777-1000. Evening and weekend meetings can be arranged upon request. We will come to your home or the hospital, if necessary.

Uninsured or Underinsured Motorists—Options for Recovery

When you have been injured in a car accident because of someone else’s negligence, the first place you typically look is the other party’s insurer. Even when you submit a claim to your own insurance company, your insurer will typically seek reimbursement from the at-fault party’s carrier. What happens, though, if you suffer a personal injury in an accident with an uninsured driver, or the at-fault party doesn’t have enough liability insurance to cover your losses?

The first step is to look at your own auto insurance policy to see if you have coverage for uninsured or underinsured motorists. This type of coverage is almost universally offered, but generally as a rider to your policy. You customarily have to proactively elect the coverage and pay an additional premium to obtain it.

It’s important to remember that an insurance policy is a contract. As such, it can be difficult to read, and you may be challenged to determine whether you have uninsured/underinsured motorists coverage and, if so, how much you have. Don’t expect your agent to take the initiative to tell you about the coverage, either. Insurance companies make money by minimizing the amount they pay in claims. You are best to hire an attorney to review your policy and help you get all benefits to which you are entitled.

Another approach when you have been hit by an uninsured or underinsured driver—look for another potentially responsible party. Was the accident caused by a faulty or defective tire, brake or other car part? Was the at-fault party under the influence of alcohol? Was there a roadway defect that caused or contributed to the crash?

Contact Attorney Michael J. Hood

For a private meeting, contact us by e-mail or call our office at (302) 777-1000. Evening and weekend appointments can be arranged upon request. We will come to your home or the hospital, if necessary. There is no cost for your first consultation.

What to Do When You Have Been Hurt in a Car Accident?

In the aftermath of a motor vehicle accident, things can happen pretty fast. To protect yourself and your rights, here’s a checklist of the things you need to do:

Get the Medical Treatment You Need

The most important thing to do after an accident—get whatever treatment you need. If you can’t leave the scene under you own power, don’t try to. This isn’t the time to be strong or brave; it’s the time to make certain you don’t do anything that’s going to make your condition worse. Wait for the paramedics to arrive.

If you are able to walk around and drive away from the scene, you should still go to either your doctor or an emergency clinic as soon as possible. Not all injuries you sustain in a car accident may be immediately visible. Medical professionals will know what tests to run if you have been in an accident, and will be on the lookout for certain types of injuries.

When you get medical treatment, ask doctors and nurses to document everything in writing. Make certain you tell them about everything that seems out of the ordinary, not just the most obvious issues. Don’t focus on your broken leg and forget to tell the doctor about the stiffness in your neck or back.

Document as Much as Possible

You want to obtain contact information from other parties to the accident, as well as anyone who witnessed the crash. This includes name, address, phone number, e-mail address and insurance provider. If you are unable to do this because of an injury, ask someone else to do so. If you can, take pictures of everything—any dents or damage to vehicles, your injuries, skid marks, road signs and weather conditions. The camera in your phone should be sufficient.

Contact Our Office

To arrange a free initial consultation, contact us online or call our office at (302) 777-1000. Evening and weekend meetings can be arranged upon request. We will come to your home or the hospital, if necessary.

Motor Vehicle Accidents Involving Drunk Drivers

It’s the holiday season and everyone is filled with good cheer. Unfortunately, too many of them are also getting behind the wheel of a car. Statistics show that traffic volumes go up dramatically in the days leading up to Christmas, and that alcohol can be involved in up to 40% of holiday traffic accidents. And with motor vehicle accidents involving drunk drivers, there can be some complicating factors.

Does The Other Driver Have Insurance?

The reality is that many drunk drivers are repeat offenders. If a driver has a prior conviction for driving under the influence, he or she may find it cost prohibitive to get more than the basic insurance coverage, or may simply choose to drive without insurance at all. Of course, when you are hurt in a car accident, the first place you tend to look for recovery is the negligent party’s insurer.

If the other driver doesn’t have insurance, or only had coverage for property damage, you can look to your own policy to see if you have coverage for uninsured or underinsured motorists. Most insurers offer this type of coverage, but typically as an optional rider on your policy. If you have it, it will provide an additional amount of coverage for personal injuries you have suffered.

Another option is to look for another potentially liable party. For example, if there were roadway defects, you might be able to seek damages from the municipality responsible for maintaining the roads. Also, if you can show that the drunk driver was served alcohol at a bar, tavern, restaurant or even a private party, you may be able to pursue compensation from the party who served the alcohol, under what is known as social host liability, or dram shop liability.

Contact Our Office

To arrange a free initial consultation, contact us online or call our office at (302) 777-1000. Evening and weekend meetings can be arranged upon request. We will come to your home or the hospital, if necessary.