You are working, driving your employer’s car approaching an intersection. The light is green. As you enter the intersection you see a blur from your left. Suddenly, a truck crashes broadside into your door.
At the scene, the truck driver claims he also had the green light. He was driving a rented U-Haul truck. Afterwards, he said he saw you and he tried to stop but the brake pedal went all the way to the floor and the truck never slowed. The truck driver had no insurance and was arrested by police for driving under the influence of alcohol.
Your legs are broken. You are taken to a hospital and have surgery. You go to physical therapy for four months and miss four months of work. You have scarring and a permanent limp.
Who is going to take care of your medical expenses, reimburse your lost earnings and compensate you for your pain?
You have several options:
- Since you were working, you can make a workers compensation claim. No proof of fault is required. Workers compensation will pay your medical expenses and will pay you a portion of your salary while you are off work. When your treatment is done you will be rated for any permanent disability and will be paid for a number of weeks of benefits. The trade-off for not having to prove liability is that workers compensation will not pay you anything for pain and suffering. (Pain and suffering includes physical pain, mental suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, disfigurement, physical impairment, grief, anxiety and humiliation)
- You can also make a liability claim against the truck driver and his employer, if he was working. You can claim your medical expenses, loss of earnings and pain and suffering damages. To win, you must prove the truck driver’s legal responsibility for the crash and causation of your injuries. You may want to make both a workers compensation claim and a liability claim because they cover different harms and losses.
- You can make a liability claim against U-Haul for negligent maintenance of the truck. You can claim your medical expenses, loss of earnings and pain and suffering damages. To win, you must prove U-Haul’s legal responsibility, including the defects in the truck and causation of your injuries.
- You can also make a claim against U-Haul based on ownership and permissive use of the truck but your recovery will be limited to the statutory minimum coverages.
- Since the truck driver was uninsured, you can make a claim against any uninsured-motorist coverage on your employer’s car. To win, you must prove the truck driver’s legal responsibility for the crash. If the liability insurance on truck was less than your uninsured-motorist coverage, you may have an underinsured-motorist claim.
- If the truck driver is convicted of drunk driving, you can make a claim for restitution in the criminal court for your economic losses and attorney’s fees. The court will often order the payments as a condition of the truck driver’s probation.
In addition to these claims, you may have other sources available to pay your medical bills:
- You can use your health insurance to pay your medical expenses.
- There may be medical payments coverage on the car you were driving.
Can you stack benefits from all of these sources in your case?
Benefits are coordinated in various ways.
For example, if you recover compensation from the truck driver or from U-Haul, you must reimburse your health insurance company for the amounts they paid for your care as they will likely have a lien or a right to reimbursement in the policy.
If your medical bills are paid by medical payments coverage and you collect a settlement or judgment from the truck driver or others, you may have to reimburse the insurance company, depending on whether you have reimbursable or non-reimbursable coverage.
If you collect workers compensation benefits and then collect a settlement or judgment against the truck driver or others, the workers compensation company will have a lien and you have to reimburse them. If you file a lawsuit against the at-fault party your workers compensation carrier can file a complaint in intervention or just rely on their lien.
If you are eligible for workers compensation benefits, your uninsured-motorist insurance is entitled to an offset for any workers compensation benefits paid or payable.
If your medical expenses are paid by Medi-Cal or Medicare, they have a statutory lien on your recovery, and you must reimburse them once you receive compensation on a liability claim.
Every insurance company that pays you will insist that you reimburse them if you collect money from another source. One of the most valuable services I can offer you is my ability to negotiate liens and reimbursement rights. It can make an enormous difference in your net recovery.
In conclusion, if you are injured in an accident you need to talk to a personal injury attorney. You have many options and your choices will determine what you recover.
If you need a Personal Injury Attorney call Don Sjaarda!