What If Your Client’s Insurance Does Not Pay for Their Injuries?
Insurance coverage is something most people do not have to think about until something goes wrong. People sign forms, opt in, or opt out, and then forget about it. When your client undergoes an injury from a car accident, slip and fall or some other injury caused by someone else’s negligence, suddenly these decisions can have a significant impact. How can you advise your client if their “set-it-and-forget” insurance coverage will not pay their medical bills?
Insurance coverage is complicated at the best of times, and unfortunately recovery from injuries is not a linear process. Insurance may only pay out to a certain threshold or when an injury is deemed to be serious. An injury that seems like it might be minor at the time could turn out to have long-term effects that prevent a person from working, resulting in loss of income, ongoing medical bills and pain and suffering.
To make matters more complicated, it is not only the type of insurance that you have but the rules in your state about what insurance must pay for. For example, when it comes to car accidents, Massachusetts is a “no fault” state, which means that insurers do not have to pay out for non-economic damages, otherwise known as pain and suffering. In Massachusetts, if you are involved in a car accident that was not your fault, you are required to go to your own insurance company first for compensation, and if your policy is limited, some things won’t be covered. In addition, you cannot recover damages for pain and suffering from your own insurance company. If you are not adequately covered by your own insurance company, you can turn to the other party’s insurance company, but if the other party is under-insured, their insurance might not pay out. The other party’s insurance company could be resistant and might find ways to deny you coverage by insisting that your injuries are not serious.
One big problem with getting the appropriate coverage for your injuries is that many injuries – such as whiplash – are not apparent immediately, so the coverage offered by insurance companies at the time of the accident just is not adequate in the long run. It is not just physical injuries – the shock of being in a car accident or suffering any accident can bring about PTSD symptoms that could have a lifelong effect on your work and your relationships. Most insurance policies, whether it is a car insurance policy, or property insurance or premises liability, will be inadequate to cover serious injuries or pain and suffering.
As a personal injury attorney, how do you advise your client if their insurance company will not pay out or the at-fault party’s insurance company is digging their heels in? It might be tempting to immediately advise your client that they should file a personal injury lawsuit with the at-fault party, but you should proceed with caution. If the at-fault party is underinsured, that is a sign they might not be able to pay, and a lawsuit might not be worth it to your client. As a personal injury attorney, you have a fiduciary duty to advise your client accurately about what they could receive in compensation. If you are too reckless and advise your client to wade into a lawsuit they cannot win, that would be a breach of your duty. On the other hand, if an at-fault party may be insolvent but you do not do further asset investigation and it turns out they have assets in a trust or other entity, you could also be liable for failing to do your due diligence. The best way to be responsible to your client is to do an asset search.
An asset search is inexpensive, quick, and thorough. At Asset Searches Plus, Inc., our asset searches take 1-2 days and cost as little as $185. An asset search will allow you to tell your client whether the person who caused their injury has any kind of asset that could help your client recover damages though a reach and apply action. This could be anything from real estate, boats, planes, automobiles, limited partnerships, intellectual property (such as patents or licenses), or trusts. Just because a younger, reckless driver for example, fails to get adequate insurance or does not have a full-time job, it does not mean that they do not have other assets that could help your client recover damages. Doing an asset search is the best way to satisfy your due diligence and help your client determine the realistic value of a personal injury case and to give them peace of mind that they are pursuing the best course to care for themselves after their injury.