You've been in a car accident that occurred in Ohio. The other driver was at fault. Now what? Will the responsible driver's insurance company pay your medical bills? What about your damaged car? Can they really stop paying for a rental car if the insurance company makes a horrible offer to settle the property damage? Should you contact your insurance company? What about your health insurer? Should they pay for the medical treatment? What are all these forms you are receiving from insurance companies? Should you sign authorizations permitting the responsible driver's insurance company to obtain your medical records? Now I'm getting bills from the ER stating that I have to pay the bill and that they won't bill my health insurance. I didn't do anything wrong and I'm stuck with all these problems on top of my injuries and lost time from work. Help!
A car accident seems simple enough...the responsible driver's insurance company should pay. Unfortunately, this doesn't happen quickly in Ohio...the laws regarding legal liability for injuries and the rules pertaining to insurance coverage make this process exceedingly complex. This blog entry is a basic primer in the laws and rules which affect persons injured by the negligence of another driver. It is intended to inform the reader and is not binding as legal advice or representation. If you have questions and need assistance, hire a competent personal injury attorney.
Ohio liability law is based upon "fault". This means that a negligent driver or the insurance company for the negligent driver only pay when they agree to a settlement or a jury makes a determination of fault. In the meantime, medical bills and economic losses from missed work all pile up to the dismay of the injured person. To make things even more difficult, Ohio's required minimum amounts of liability insurance coverage are very low ($12,500 per person per accident/$25,000 total per accident) and many drivers don't even carry the required insurance. While this hardly seems fair, it is a fact and must be contended with by protecting yourself in advance. More from our website
What can be done? First, insure yourself properly. Carry significant underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage ("UIM"), a minimum of $100,000. This coverage only kicks in the difference between the amount of insurance coverage the responsible driver has and the limits of your UIM coverage. i.e. if the underinsured driver has $50,000 in coverage and you have $100,000 UIM coverage, your insurance is only on the hook for the $50,000 difference if you can prove that your damages exceed $100,000.
If you do not have health insurance carry significant ($25,000) "medical payments" coverage on your auto policy to cover the out-of-pocket medical expenses which pile up after injury and which will not be paid by the responsible driver/insurance company for many months or years.
If you have health insurance, use it! Demand that hospitals, doctors and radiologists bill health insurance and that they don't bill you as "self-pay" due to a car accident. Contact your auto insurer if you have medical payments coverage and notify them that they are only allowed to pay medical bills which you submit for payment, i.e. your out-of-pocket co-pays and deductibles. If you have health insurance, you do not need extensive "medical payments" coverage for yourself. Consider whether your typical passenger may need such coverage in the event of an accident.
When an accident occurs, gather all pertinent insurance information. Get a copy of the police report as soon as possible. Let the responding police officers know if you are injured and get appropriate medical treatment for your injuries rather than "toughing it out". Take pictures of your car and your injuries. Make sure you contact your own auto insurer to let them know of the incident. If the responsible driver's insurance company is giving you a hard time as to the value of the damages/vehicle, work with your own insurance company to settle the claim. You will get back the deductible payment eventually.
If you have health insurance, expect to provide them with information regarding the incident. Your health insurer usually has a right to get back the medical payments it makes on your behalf if the injury is caused by another's negligence. This is called subrogation. Your policy of health insurance requires you to coordinate with them in regards to who is actually responsible fot the injury-related bills. You should expect to receive correspondence from your health insurer and respond to it in a timely manner.
Keep good records of your medical bills, explanation of benefits forms, days off work, etc. A complete paper trail makes proving losses much easier.
Finally, don't settle a claim if you are still injured. Even if you need the money, you may be hurting your long-term financial interests. Consult an attorney. Video
If this all seems ridiculously complex, well it is. At Jeffries, Kube, Forrest and Monteleone we provide our clients with honest evaluations and skilled representation. Be cautious if you choose to deal with any of the attorneys and chiropractors who bombard accident victims with promotional materials. Make sure that your attorney and medical professional are well qualified. If you have been injured in an auto collision and need help with the complexities of Ohio auto accident law and insurance coverage, give us a call for an honest assesment.
Author: Jarrett J. Northup, Esq.
About the author: Attorney Biographies