Panama City Car Accident Lawyer Answers, "Who Pays Out Of Pocket Expenses In My Case?"

In my last post, I talked about damages as a necessity in any personal injury case. Damages is the dollar value of an injury necessary to compensate someone for an injury. In an injury case, damages are necessary because injury suits compensate victims for losses — no damages usually means no injury, which means no case. Today, I’m going to start a little series on the kinds of damages available to accident victims, beginning with the simplest example — out-of-pocket losses.

Imagine a simple, garden-variety car accident — one vehicle with the right-of-way gets struck by another vehicle that may simply have been going too fast for the road conditions. The victim suffers some lacerations — doctor speak for cuts — and also has some back pain. The victim goes to the emergency room, gets stitches, painkillers, and is directed to follow-up with their primary care physician. The next day, still groggy and achy, the victim — a self-employed consultant — cancels an appointment that would have resulted in a $10,000 contract. The victim follows-up with their family doctor as directed, and the family doc orders an MRI and diagnoses a slipped disk and pinched nerve. The family doc then prescribes physical therapy. The physical therapist lays out a plan of treatment — four sessions a week for four months.

Meanwhile, the victim’s car is sitting in a tow yard, racking up storage fees. It is transported to a body shop, and body shop estimates that the cost of repair will be about $4,000 — frame straightening, new body panels, color matching, and labor add up.

After a week or so, the victim feels well enough to return to work. The car is ready to be picked up from the shop. The physical therapy is underway.

And that is when the bills start coming in — $750 to the hospital for the ER visit. $2,000 to the doc who did the stitches. $1,500 for the MRI, $75 per session to the physical therapist. Then there are the bills for the car — $200 for the tow, and $75 per day for storage; $4,000 to the body shop… and don’t forget the lost income. It all adds up.

The most basic form of damages in any injury suit compensates victims for these out-of-pocket losses. In the example, the victim suffered damages through no fault of their own, yet still ran up considerable bills and expenses that they might have to pay for themselves. As the other driver caused the injuries, the law says that driver should be required to pay for the victim’s medical treatment, car repairs, and lost wages.

At this point you might think to yourself, “But doesn’t insurance pay for that?” The answer, however, is that it depends — some coverage, like collision and comprehensive, is paid by the victim’s own insurer to compensate the victim. On the other hand, liability insurance (the only kind all drivers are required to have) protects the wrongdoer from the costs associated with the injuries they cause, and are paid out to the other party. Insurance companies have an interest in keeping liability payments as low as possible, because they don’t care whether the victims are happy, only whether their insured is happy.

Insurance doesn’t have to fully compensate for the victim’s losses, because the victim is not their insured. They will try to offer far less than the victim might be entitled to, will not necessarily take all the possible damages into account.

In other words, even where there is insurance, the insurance company can fight you on paying for everything you may be entitled to. In the meantime, the bills will continue to pile up — and until there is a settlement, the victim is on the hook for these bills. This is why it is important to speak to a Panama City car accident lawyer early on in the process, even for a case that on its face seems simple and uncomplicated.

Nothing is ever simple and uncomplicated.

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