I’ve seen personal injury cases take up to five years to get settled if they go to trial, and the best personal injury attorneys help their clients prepare for the financial hardships that may arise in the interim. Immediate medical expenses may include hospitalization, as well as long-term rehabilitation in a nursing home. Once the individual returns home, there may be costs for attendant care and renovations for accessibility. If their injuries resulted from an auto accident, they may need to repair or replace the vehicle.
Beyond such immediate financial hits, there’s often a huge drop in household income. Social Security Disability payments don’t begin for five months following the incident. So if the claimant was the family breadwinner and doesn’t have short-term disability insurance, there could be a period when no funds are coming in. Even if the primary breadwinner isn’t the injured party, one parent may stop working in order to act as caregiver.
To deal with this shortfall, families need to evaluate all the options available to pay for medical expenses. They may be eligible for public benefits to help defray healthcare costs. If an auto accident was involved, medical bills may be directed to the insurance company, which will then be repaid through the settlement. If none of the costs are covered by insurance, and the family is getting calls from collection agencies, their attorney can issue a “letter of protection” to advise health providers that they will be reimbursed once the case is resolved. That stops the collection agencies, which often takes some pressure off the families.
Many people use credit cards or loans from family members to make it through this period, repaying those debts once the case is settled. While lawsuit loans are available, we don’t recommend them except in extreme cases, because their rates are extremely high.
Until the case is settled, families should keep detailed records of all expenses, including transportation costs. And any loans should be documented in writing.
By Attorney Janet Lowder, Hickman & Lowder Co., L.P.A.