What if I Cannot Afford My Medical Bills After a Drunk Driving Accident?

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A stethoscope and a calculator resting on top of a patient's chart.The medical system in the United States is very expensive. According to Consumer Finance, 43 million people had unpaid medical bills on their credit reports in 2021.

Debt collectors contact patients about their medical bills more than any other type of debt. Health insurance is unaffordable for many people and high deductibles can leave patients with crippling debt.

Many people are more worried about being able to afford medical treatment than their actual injuries and recovery.

If you were injured in an accident that you did not cause, the driver at fault for the accident is responsible for your compensation. The driver’s insurance policy typically pays on behalf of the driver.

Insurance companies will often try to offer you less than what you need to cover your medical expenses. They will argue that you received more treatment than was necessary or that your treatment was too expensive.

These are just some of the tricks these companies use to avoid paying out what you deserve. A drunk driving accident lawyer is invaluable for their experience and ability to negotiate with tough insurance companies and their attorneys.

Never accept an offer from an insurance adjuster without first discussing it with a lawyer that is on your side.

Who Pays the Bill for Impaired Drivers?

When someone is injured in a drunk driving accident, the person responsible for causing the crash is also responsible for paying for the victim’s injuries and losses. As long as you had no part in causing the accident, you should not have to pay for the consequences.

There are a couple of challenges you may face when trying to claim your compensation for damages.

  • North Carolina’s Contributory Negligence Rule
  • Insurance Companies May Refuse to Pay for Impaired Drivers
  • Insurance Companies Only Pay Up To Policy Limits

North Carolina’s Contributory Negligence Rule

North Carolina has a harsh rule that makes claiming compensation for damages difficult. The contributory negligence rule prevents anyone who is at fault for the accident from claiming damages.

If you are only 1% at fault for the collision, you cannot seek compensation. You would have to rely on your personal health insurance to help pay for your injuries.

The insurance company for the impaired driver will try to find a way to place some responsibility for the accident on you to avoid having to pay for your injuries.

Your drunk driving accident lawyer will fight this and prove that you had no fault by using accident reconstruction specialists, the police report, and witness statements, among other evidence.

Insurance Companies May Refuse to Pay for Impaired Drivers

The drunk driver’s insurance company may try to avoid paying for the accident by arguing that the driver drove while impaired and the decision to do so was an intentional act.

Drunk driving is illegal and insurance companies do not have to provide coverage for criminal acts, according to Forbes. They will see the alcohol consumption as deliberate negligence and deny any claims.

They should, however, still cover the expenses of the victims of the crash. A personal injury lawyer specializing in drunk driving accidents will negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf.

Insurance Companies Only Pay Up to Policy Limits

The minimum amount of liability insurance required in North Carolina is only $30,000 for bodily injury for one person, $60,000 for two or more people, and $25,000 for property damage. While this seems like a lot of money, serious injuries can cost much more than $30,000.

Hospital stays and surgeries alone can cost in excess of this policy limit and $25,000 will not cover a luxury vehicle. The driver will be personally responsible for the excess costs.

How Much Can I Claim for My Medical Expenses?

You will first have to calculate how much your medical bills have cost you. You will have to add up all your bills associated with the accident and include any anticipated future expenses such as more surgeries or physical therapy. Include the following:

  • Transportation to the hospital from the accident site
  • Emergency department care
  • Inpatient services, if you were admitted to the hospital
  • Hospital stay, this is often a separate charge
  • Diagnostic imaging is billed separately
  • Lab work
  • Physical therapy and other rehabilitation treatments
  • Therapy for your mental health for dealing with the accident and your injuries
  • Prescription medication
  • Specialized equipment you now need, such as crutches, a wheelchair, a ramp for your home
  • In-home care, if you now need an in-home nurse or physical therapist
  • Any other medical expenses you have that were caused by the accident

Should I Take an Early Settlement to Pay My Bills?

Although it is tempting to get the money sooner to start paying your bills, it is best to wait until all or at least the vast majority of your treatments are complete.

By waiting, you will have a more accurate estimate of your total medical expenses along with legal documentation in the form of bills for services rendered by medical professionals.

What if I Have Health Insurance?

Your health insurance may cover all or a portion of your medical expenses. You have the right to be compensated for what they paid.

Some health insurance companies will place a lien on your settlement to get reimbursed for the amount they covered.

What if the Insurance Company Refuses to Pay a Fair Settlement?

It is possible to negotiate with your healthcare provider to get your medical bills reduced. Hospitals would rather get paid something than nothing and are often willing to work with you to reduce your bills to the amount of your settlement if the difference is not too great.

Aside from negotiations, you can file a personal injury litigation in the county court where the collision happened. The insurance company would have to add the potential expense of litigation to your claim, therefore, increasing its value.

The driver can also be sued for any damages not covered by their insurance company, but that often takes more time.

The more evidence you give to an insurance adjuster, the more likely they are to give you a fair settlement. Victims with legal representation are more likely to receive higher settlement offers in a shorter amount of time.

Insurance companies know that low offers are a waste of time and that you mean business when you have an experienced drunk driving accident attorney fighting for you.

Contact the Heavy Hitters to Get Your Settlement Money Fast

If you have been injured in an accident with a drunk driver in North Carolina, contact Tatum & Atkinson at (800) LAW-0804 to discuss your case and get your questions answered.

Every case, accident, and client is unique. We personalize our efforts to ensure your best interests are protected. We refuse to add to your financial stress, so you will not pay anything for our services until you receive your settlement.

We will discuss all of your options for getting everything you deserve as quickly as possible. Call us today so we can get started on your case and get you paid.