A “Double Whammy” – When you’re involved in more than one car crash.

April 16, 2015 | By R. Brendan Dummigan of Pickett Dummigan LLP

Things are bad enough when you’re involved in one car accident. It gets even worse when you’re involved in two within a short amount of time. The situation is complex and confusing and can spiral out of control if you are not prepared. For example: your own insurance policy may not be able to cover the costs of additional medical treatment; the insurance companies of the drivers-at-fault may take a long time to pay your bills (if they pay at all) and while you wait, you can still be sent to collections and have your credit score drop; furthermore, if you need more medical attention, you will either have to pay out-of-your-own-pocket or go without healthcare because of financial difficulty. For some people, when it rains, it pours.

The good news is, if you’re not at fault for either car crash, the sun will come out again. The key to weathering the storm is to understand what you can do to protect your rights until the storm clouds pass.

First, make sure you have enough Personal Injury Protection coverage (PIP) to cover your medical expenses and don’t be afraid to use it. Many people forget that in Oregon, PIP coverage is mandatory for all drivers. PIP will pay for your medical treatment and lost wages for accidents involving a motor vehicle (even if you were a pedestrian or bicyclist at the time of the incident). If you have enough coverage, have your medical provider bill your car insurance instead of your health insurance. Many health insurance plans have costly deductibles that can be avoided this way.

However, many people try to save money by buying the minimum PIP coverage and are only insured up to $15,000 per accident/crash. For one minor car crash, this is usually enough to get you back on your feet. However, for major crashes and multiple crashes, this is often not enough to get you the healthcare you deserve. If you run out of PIP coverage (or if you want compensation for your pain and suffering), it may be necessary to go after the at-fault-drivers’ insurance policy.

Unfortunately, if there are multiple car crashes, the various insurance companies involved (including your own) may refuse to pay anything until they determine who is responsible for what percentage of the injuries. This gets really complicated when the injuries are largely the same.

For example: Dan Driver gets into car accident 1 and he fractures a rib. While he is still recovering, he gets into car accident 2 and makes the same rib fracture worse. Determining who is responsible for the fracture is not as easy as dividing it 50-50 and the at-fault-drivers’ insurance company may not pay anything until that percentage of responsibility is clear. Furthermore, if Dan’s own insurance believes the majority of the injury is attributed to accident 1, Dan may actually receive less PIP benefits than if his insurance believes the majority of the injury is attributed to accident 2.

While the insurance companies fight over who is responsible for what, the victim may have their outstanding bills sent to collections and their credit score drop, putting them in financial difficulty down the road.

The good news is that this is preventable with a reputable lawyer. A good lawyer can help guide you through this complicated system and keep the insurance companies in line. A reputable attorney may also be able to put your medical bills on hold while insurance issues are being resolved. Although this doesn’t always work, many medical providers will hold off on collections if they know that a victim is being adequately represented by a trustworthy attorney. Once things are cleared up, your attorney will be able to get those bills paid off or help you negotiate down the charges so you end up with all of the insurance benefits that you’ve been paying for. When dealing with multiple insurance companies, it is important to act strategically to make sure that you don’t end up drawing the short straw and losing out on benefits you deserve.

Finally, a good personal injury lawyer will be able to help you claim full and fair compensation for the pain and suffering you endured. PIP coverage only pays for your medical expenses and wage loss. If you’ve suffered permanent injury or severe distress, you may be entitled to compensation for the loss of your enjoyment of life.

The lawyers at Pickett Dummigan LLP have decades of experience representing victims of multiple car crashes. We can help you avoid an unfair settlement and protect your rights if insurance companies try to play the blame game. We are also skilled at working with your medical providers to get your medical bills addressed (or put on hold) so you can worry about getting better instead of worrying about bills. If you’ve been involved in one or more car crashes, you may have a claim. For a free consultation, give us a call at 866-628-3294.

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