What to Expect if You Have Recently Been in an Accident – Part 2
You have been in an accident, lost time off work, spent money out-of-pocket to see doctors and likely have no vehicle to drive. You may be trying to navigate the immediate future on your own just to get a car to drive and get back to work. Once that fire is put out, you will likely spend the next month or so trying to figure out how much time, effort, money and trouble you have wasted because of a car or other accident that was not your fault. The accident recovery lawyers at Klenda Austerman Wichita assist in helping you understanding not only the process, but also keeping track of the overall expense you incur as the result of an accident.
The compensation you seek as the result of an accident or injury is generally referred to as your “damages” or your “damage claim.” Under Kansas law, there are three general categories of damages in a personal injury case and your attorney at Klenda Austerman can help you understand these categories more in depth. They are classified as medical expenses, economic expenses and non-economic expenses, and are discussed in further detail below. In certain limited circumstances, facts may exist that warrant an additional claim for punitive damages. Since those circumstances are rare, they are not addressed below but your Wichita accident recovery lawyers will advise you if your case may qualify.
Clients who have obtained medical treatment as the result of a personal injury accident may seek reimbursement for such expenses regardless of whether those expenses were paid out-of-pocket or by an insurance carrier. The category of recovery includes expenses you have already incurred, as well as expenses you reasonably anticipate incurring in the future (additional surgeries, physical therapy, medication, etc.) If you sustained an injury as the result of a car accident, your own automobile insurance company will pay a portion of your medical expenses under your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits under your own insurance policy. The minimum amount of coverage you will have under your PIP benefits is $4,500 as set by Kansas state statute. This amount of money is often used up after one trip in an ambulance to the emergency room. Your PIP carrier will have a lien for any amounts it paid on your behalf and will likely seek reimbursement from any settlement you receive from the other party.
After your PIP benefits are exhausted, your health insurance company typically steps in and begins paying the rest of your medical expenses. Prior to doing so, however, your health insurance company will need written confirmation from your automobile insurance carrier that all of your PIP benefits are exhausted.
In some situations, it is very clear from an accident report that another driver was at fault for the accident. Many clients ask their accident recovery lawyers why that driver’s insurance company does not pay the medical bills and expenses up front. It is important to understand that the other driver’s insurance company will make one lump-sum settlement to resolve all issues and claims arising out of an accident. As a general rule, they do not agree to pay medical expenses on a piecemeal basis, which means that you may be left trying to figure out how to get your bills paid until a settlement is reached. Prior to settlement of your case, you will still be personally responsible for all co-pays or other medical expenses that are not covered by your health insurance, and any other out-of-pockets costs such as medication or medical supplies. Failure to pay such expenses may result in bills being turned over to collection agencies and a possible negative credit report.
Once a settlement is reached, your automobile insurance company will likely seek reimbursement for any sums it paid on your behalf. Additionally, depending on the type of health insurance coverage you have, your health insurance company may also have a right to reimbursement. This is determined on a case by case basis. Finally, any unpaid medical expenses will be paid directly from the settlement as well.
Economic loss includes all items of damage that are quantifiable. It includes lost income/wages, loss of time and non-medical expenses that you incurred as a result of the accident. As with medical expenses, you can recover for past economic loss, as well as future economic loss which you reasonably expect to incur. Your accident recovery lawyers will advise you in the assessment of all damages incurred. While lost wages is the most common category of economic loss, and the one that most people tend to immediately identify, there are other claims that can be made under this category. If you were required to hire any kind of assistant to work for you to do things that you were not able to do because of the injury, such may be recoverable. This may include extra childcare, housekeeping services, lawn care services, taxi service, and the like. It does not necessarily have to be a formal service that you have hired. If you have a relative that drove you to doctor’s appointments or did your grocery shopping, those items should be considered as well.
Non-economic damages are commonly referred to as damages for “pain and suffering.” This category of damages includes pain, suffering, disability, disfigurement and mental anguish suffered as the result of the accident/injury. There is no mathematical formula for determining the amount of money a person should be awarded for pain and suffering. As a rule of thumb, lawyers tend to estimate that pain and suffering can be determining by multiplying the medical bills by two or three, depending on the facts of the case.
Until recently, Kansas law has limited the amount of money a person may be awarded by a jury for pain and suffering to $250,000. Changes in the law increased this amount to $325,000. This was the maximum amount the law would allow a victim for pain and suffering regardless of the injury. It did not matter whether you broke a leg, lost a limb or a loved one ultimately lost their life. Your pain and suffering claim was limited to the amount imposed by the legislature. The Kansas Supreme Court has now held that such limitations are unconstitutional. Accordingly, the way many defendants or their insurance companies value a case will be changing.