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March 2011 Archives

Medical Payments Coverage

We sometimes hear about “no fault” auto insurance coverage in other states, including Michigan.  Indeed, the compensation laws for auto accident claims vary from state to state.  But even those with Ohio insurance polices may be surprised to find that their own insurance carrier can be called upon to pay for accident-related medical bills regardless of fault.Buried inside the policy booklet of many auto policies is a section entitled “Medical Payments Coverage” or “med pay”.  The standard policy will have language that states the insurance company will pay reasonable medical expenses for bodily injury caused by accident within a certain period (up to 3 years) after a crash. The policy will define who is an “insured person” and may have other conditions as well, but these conditions will not involve proof of negligence or fault by either motorist.This type of coverage is not required by Ohio law; it is an optional coverage and will not be available on certain state-minimum coverage policies.  Medical payment coverage is usually limited to $5,000 per person, per accident.  However the limits can be as low as $1,000 or as high as $100,000.By way of example, let’s assume Betsy and Ross are in their own car when they are injured in a collision caused by another motorist (George).  George’s insurance company is going to pay on this claim –eventually—but only when Betsy and Ross agree to sign a “full and final release of all claims.” The couple will not be in a position to settle for months because of ongoing medical treatment.Betsy and Ross should have their health insurance carrier pay their medical bills and use their own auto carrier’s medical payments coverage to pick up those charges not paid by health insurance.  When the case is finally settled with George’s liability insurance company, Betsy and Ross can reimburse their own insurers.  Under this approach, the at-fault motorist’s insurance pays the damages George caused, but Betsy and Ross can get payments to their doctors in a more timely fashion.  Also, they are not pressed to settle their case before they are ready to--just to pay off medial bills.Coordinating the various insurance coverages can be confusing, and to make certain you are receiving the benefits of your policies you’ve paid for, it’s wise to contact an attorney to assist you in this regard.Jim Yavorcik is a board certified civil trial attorney with the firm of Cubbon and Associates in Toledo. Contact him at [email protected]

UNINSURED MOTORIST COVERAGE PROTECTS OHIO DRIVERS. HOW MUCH COVERAGE SHOULD DRIVERS HAVE?

Betsy and Ross just purchased their first home.  It is small, not too far from their jobs.  They saved to put twenty percent down and took a mortgage for the balance.  They have done most of the cleaning, painting and minor repairs and are looking forward to finishing the last projects.One Wednesday, Betsy was on her way home from work when an uninsured driver ran head-on into her car.  Betsy broke her right wrist and strained her neck and shoulder.  The air bag caused a big gash above her left eyebrow.  Betsy will need wrist surgery and will be off work for weeks.Ross and Betsy were very worried about the financial impact of the accident on their already tight budget.  The accident left them with large medical bills and the couple count on Betsy’s income to make ends meet.In reviewing their options, the couple was happy to learn that their automobile insurance policy is adequate to get them through this trying time. Their policy contains liability, collision, medical payments, and uninsured motorist coverage.Collision coverage will pay to replace or repair their car and pay for several days of auto rental while that happens. Without this coverage, Betsey and Ross would be with out a car.Medical payment or med pay coverage pays for medical expenses incurred as a result of a vehicular collision.  Betsy and Ross have $10,000 of medical payments coverage. With this coverage the couple will be able to pay medical bills immediately and keep the bill collectors at bay.Uninsured motorist (UM) and Underinsured (UIM) coverage compensates accident victims for the injuries and losses sustained in collisions caused by drivers with no or inadequate insurance coverage. Ohio does not require that insurers sell uninsured motorists coverage but Betsy and Ross were fortunate to have an agent who encouraged them to purchase UM and UIM coverage. They also had foresight to purchase enough coverage to fully compensate them for their losses.While Ohio requires that all drivers have liability insurance, too many Ohioans ignore the law and drive without any automobile insurance. Others drive with minimum or low limit policies that may not fully compensate people they injure. For example, a state minimum limits policy would provide Betsy at most $12,500 in compensation. This is barely enough to cover her emergency room bills and not enough to cover surgery and lost income.Betsy can not help with the house projects. She will miss weeks of work and is facing surgery and physical therapy to regain use of her wrist. She will be left with a scar on her forehead. Losses could easily reach $100,000. To cover a loss this large Ross and Betsy need at least $100,000 in uninsured motorist coverage.We never plan to be injured and can’t possibly know how bad our injuries will be if the unthinkable happens. Automobile insurance protects those we hurt and our own assets when we make driving mistakes.  A complete policy also protects us and our assets from uninsured drivers.Uninsured motorist coverage is adequate only if it will compensate for your expenses, lost wages, present and future injuries after an accident with an uninsured motorist. You need enough coverage to prevent financial ruin if the unthinkable happens.The cost of insurance goes up only marginally as the amount of coverage increases. Motorists are often surprised at how much coverage they can afford to buy. Fortunately Betsy and Ross purchased $100,000 in coverage. Had they purchased a minimum or low limits policy low limits policy they would be facing financial catastrophe, including foreclosure and bankruptcy.At Cubbon and Associates, we recommend that all drivers try to carry at least a half million dollars of coverage. At the very least, ask your agent for quotes in high amounts. In over 57 years of practice, our firm has never seen a situation where a person had too much insurance available but we have, sadly, often see cases of too little.Kyle Cubbon is a personal injury attorney and partner at Cubbon and Associates a Toledo Law Firm providing legal services to injured persons. 419-243-7243. www.cubbon.com.

DO STATE MINIMUM INSURANCE LIMITS PROTECT MOTORISTS?

Betsy and Ross are newly married and have bought their first car together.  As they are obtaining a new title to the car at the county clerk of courts title office, they are required to sign a sworn affidavit that they maintain state minimum insurance limits on their Ford. What are state minimum insurance limits?  I turns out that each state has enacted statutory amounts of automobile insurance that every driver MUST have.  These are intended to offer at least minimal protection for the OTHER driver if Betsy or Ross causes an accident. Ohio has among the lowest state minimum insurance limits in the land: $12,500 per person/$25,000 per accident for bodily injuries and $7500 property damage.  Being on a budget, Betsy and Ross take out state minimum limits. State minimum limits allow them to get their drivers licenses and a title for their. It is illegal to drive without any insurance, and someone caught doing so risks losing his license and will incur a costly reinstatement fee if he eventually gets insurance. Sadly, Betsy learns the hard way that texting Ross a quick message while driving is dangerous and foolhardy, as she runs a stop sign and T-bones George's minivan totaling both vehicles out and sending George to the hospital with a broken wrist, where he amasses $15,000 in medical bills. Betsy's state minimum insurance is now available to pay George up to $12,500 for his bodily or personal injuries, which is the most Betsy's insurance can pay any one person under her bodily injuries insurance coverage.  Her insurance company will also pay up to $7500 to replace George's minivan because this is the most Betsy's insurance company can pay in property damage for any one accident. Unfortunately, since George's medical bills exceed Betsy's state minimum insurance coverage, and since the $7500 her company paid replaces only about a third of the cost of George's new minivan, George will sue Betsy for the rest of his losses. State minimum insurance limits kept Betsy and Ross legal--they were able to obtain a title to their car but they didn't get enough insurance to cover the damages of an accident.  Now they're going to be paying this off for years to come. And by the way, they'll be taking the bus to and from work while they pay George off because their State Minimum insurance ONLY covers other cars.  It didn't cover Betsy and Ross' car, which was totaled, too. State Minimum Insurance Limits are just that--the minimum needed to get an auto title and keep a driver "legal" but not enough to keep you safe! Authored by Stuart F Cubbon is a personal injury attorney and partner at Cubbon and Associates, a Toledo Law Firm providing legal services to injured persons, and a past President of the Toledo Bar Association.  419-243-7243.

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