If you win a personal injury claim, you are likely to qualify for two types of compensation—economic damages and non-economic damages. Economic damages cover easy-to-count losses such as medical expenses and lost wages. Non-economic damages compensate you for intangible losses such as pain and suffering and emotional distress.
There will probably be a delay between the time your bills come due and the time you receive a personal injury settlement or verdict. During this time, you might have to pay some expenses from your own pocket and wait until you receive compensation to recover these expenses. This can leave you dangerously low on cash in the meantime.
Another reason that out-of-pocket expenses merit attention is that personal injury victims often forget to claim them, or they don’t even realize that they have the right to claim them. Your lawyer can help you identify which out-of-pocket expenses are suitable to include in your personal injury claim.
Out-of-pocket medical expenses might include:
- Hospital and ambulance bills;
- Surgery bills;
- Doctor bills;
- Insurance deductibles, if you pay some of your medical expenses with your own insurance;
- Prescription and over-the-counter medications;
- Crutches, wheelchairs, and other medical equipment;
- Accommodation expenses when you must spend the night out of town (for a doctor’s appointment, for example); and
- Other medical expenses.
Your medical bills might be too expensive for you to pay out of your pocket. Fortunately, healthcare providers are often willing to accept a medical lien on your personal injury settlement. This means that they will deduct your medical expenses from your personal injury compensation before you receive any money. Your lawyer can help you negotiate a medical lien.
Common Examples of Miscellaneous Out-of-Pocket Expenses
There is no official list of approved out-of-pocket expenses. It all depends on the specific facts of your case. If the expenses arose directly from your injuries, it probably qualifies for compensation. If it arose indirectly, that is where your lawyer would negotiate with the insurance adjuster or argue in court.
Following are some examples of common out-of-pocket expenses.
- Childcare expenses while you are in the hospital or in recovery;
- Parking expenses;
- Rental car expenses, if your car was totaled in an accident;
- Mileage reimbursement (use the IRS rate); and
- Bus, train, and taxi fares if you cannot drive (this item could include Uber or Lyft expenses as well).
Talk with your lawyer about any expenses you are unsure of.
“Reasonable and Necessary”
All of the out-of-pocket expenses you claim must be “reasonable and necessary.” The phrase “reasonable and necessary” is useful to insurance adjusters who will exploit it to whittle away at your compensation claim.
If the insurance adjuster rejects any expenses you seek to claim, the law requires them to give you a reason. If they tell you the cost of an item is unreasonable compared to similar items on the market, you can shop around and gather evidence to prove them wrong.
Proving Out-of-Pocket Expenses
An insurance company is sure to demand evidence of your out-of-pocket expenses. Keep every receipt you receive, both paper and digital. Be prepared for a fight—the insurance company is likely to challenge many, if not most, of these expenses. They might claim that you spent too much on a particular item, or they might claim that you shouldn’t have spent any money at all on a particular item.
Gaining Leverage Through Pre-Trial Discovery
Insurance companies are often difficult to deal with when it comes to every aspect of your claim, especially out-of-pocket expenses. If your out-of-pocket expenses are high, and you cannot get a fair settlement offer from the insurance company, you might consider filing a lawsuit against the defendant.
Filing a lawsuit doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll go to trial. After you file a lawsuit, the judge won’t even schedule a trial for weeks or even months later. Additionally, the court will be pressing both parties to settle to reduce the court’s busy docket. Pretrial discovery is a form of asymmetric warfare that can improve your overall bargaining power even though it doesn’t directly involve out-of-pocket expenses.
A Skilled Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help Maximize Your Compensation
When you are pressing a personal injury claim, it’s not just whether you win or lose. What matters most is how much compensation you win compared to the true value of your claim. Don’t settle for less than 100%.
Depending on the facts of your case, your out-of-pocket expenses might be high or they could be insignificant. Schedule a free consultation with a St. Petersburg personal injury lawyer at Lopez Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers to estimate the total value of your claim and explore your legal options. Call us at (727) 933-0015.