“Here’s the papers, Mr. LaBre. I’ve been sued in Elkhart for $750,000 for my medical expenses from my auto accident ten months ago. What do I do now?”
“That’s a lot of money”, I said. “What happened?”
“Well, I was on the Indiana Toll Road, and a semi out of Indianapolis rearended me. It crushed the car. Two of my ribs and my two legs were broken. One of the ribs pierced a lung. I don’t have health insurance. It’s just now that I’m able to be up and about, and able to go back to work. Then I get hit with this lawsuit. I can’t afford that!”
“Where were you living when the collision happened?”
“Was your car fully insured?”
“Have you contacted your car insurance company regarding your medical bills?”
“I spoke to my agent about my car being totaled, but that’s all. The insurance company hasn’t even paid for that yet.”
“Well, you made it just in time. You see, under the Michigan “No-Fault” Law, you’re entitled to have all of your medical expenses from the collision paid by your car insurance. That coverage will last for the rest of your life. You’re also entitled to receive up to the first three years in lost wages from work, and other rehabilitation benefits.
“However, Michigan law has very strict limits on the time for seeking these benefits.
“First, you must file a written claim with your insurance company not later than one year from the date of the accident giving the details of the accident. If that written claim is not filed with the insurance company itself, and not just the insurance agent, then you are forever barred from collecting one dime in no fault benefits. Your agent may have filed that claim for you, but you need to be sure that it’s filed with the insurance company. Get a written verification of that filing.
“Secondly, even if you file a claim regarding the accident, you must file a second claim with the insurance company giving copies of the specific medical bills from the collision which you want paid. Even though you have lifetime benefits if you timely file a claim for the accident itself, you must also file a second claim for those benefits. If the claim is not paid, you must file a lawsuit against the insurance company. From the date when you incur the medical expenses, or lose wages, you only have one year from that date to both file a claim for benefits and file the lawsuit if the benefits are not paid.
“Let me get this straight”, he said. “I have to file two claims, one for the accident itself within the first year, and another claim for the medical bills and lost wages. Is that right?”
“And if I don’t file the claim about the accident itself within the first year, I get nothing, ever.”
“And, I have to file a second claim, and then sue if not paid, for the medical benefits and lost wages within one year from the time when I incurred the bills.”
“What if I forget?”
“Oh Well. You lose any benefits which are more than a year old when you file the suit for the benefits.”
“So what do I do with this $750,000 lawsuit?”
“We’ll file both the claim for the accident, and the claim for the medical bills and lost wages, with the insurance company today. Meantime, I’ll call the attorney for the $750,000 lawsuit, explain what’s happening, and see if the case can be put on hold temporarily. If not, we’ll join the insurance company in the suit against you.”
“What about the truck that hit me?”
“You’ve got two years from the date of the accident to file that suit. Don’t worry, that’s next”.