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Mr. Barlow is the Author of "The Ultimate Guide to Accident Injury Cases in Hawaii." Available at:
Worked for the
United States Air Force
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What You Don't Know About Car Accident Cases in Hawaii
Many aspects of Hawaii injury cases are common sense. Everyone knows that the person that hit you is responsible to fix your car, reimburse you for your medical bills, and pay you for your pain and suffering. Of course, this is usually all paid by their insurance company.
Here is something that many people don’t know about car accident claims in Hawaii:
When you settle your injury claim you have to pay back your health insurance company.
This comes as a shock to many people. Most people who have been injured in an accident have no idea that their health insurance company wants to be paid back for the bills that they paid for your treatment related to the accident. The prominent health insurance companies in Honolulu, and throughout Hawaii, even hire companies who specialize in obtaining reimbursement for the medical bills that they paid.
As Hawaii injury lawyers we spend a lot of time receiving phone calls from these companies and responding to their letters. Their agents receive a commission for the funds that they recover, so they can be rather aggressive.
Don’t worry, you only need to reimburse your health insurance company if you receive a settlement for your injuries. If you decide not to pursue the matter and don’t end up getting a settlement, then you don’t need to pay back the insurance company.
This phenomenon of medical insurance companies wanting to be reimbursed is somewhat new. Many years ago this was not an issue. Now their right to be compensated when the injured person gets a settlement is explained in the insurance contract. These insurance contracts indicate that the insureds have the obligation to cooperate with the medical insurance company and make sure that they are paid back when their case is settled.
All of this is a good reason why you should hire a Honolulu accident injury lawyer who has many years of experience. Attorneys without much experience with car accident claims may not even be aware that the medical insurance company will want to be paid back.
It is important to know the amount that needs to be paid back so that you can take that into account when accepting a settlement amount. You should not accept a settlement amount until you have considered how much of the settlement will be paid to the medical insurance company and how much will be paid for the attorney fees. You don’t want to be surprised if you find out that you end up receiving less than you thought you would.
An experienced injury lawyer will also know how to negotiate with the medical insurance company to get them to reduce the amount that they are requesting. For example, we can usually get them to reduce it by the percentage that was paid for attorney fees. After all, the client had to hire a lawyer and pay attorney fees so that they can get compensated, so why should the health insurance company not have to reduce their balance by at least the same percentage that the client had to pay for their attorney fee.
The laws in this area are constantly evolving. This is an issue that is being constantly challenged in the courts. Recently, the injury lawyers have been successful against the health insurance companies who are seeking reimbursement. The Supreme Court of Hawaii and the Federal District Court of Hawaii have both ruled on the side of the injury lawyers and against the health insurance companies. This is great news for victims of injuries in Hawaii; however, the fight is not over yet. The health insurance companies have vowed to continue to fight the issue in court and have indicated that they will appeal the cases to higher courts.
In a way, it's understandable that they would want to be reimbursed for some of what they have paid. For example, if someone received a million dollar settlement because their medical bills were hundreds of thousands of dollars, than it would be reasonable for the health insurance company to receive some of the settlement. However, the problem is that these health insurance companies are often very unreasonable. For example, most people in Hawaii only have the minimum car insurance of $20,000. So most settlements for injuries are $20,000 or less. We have had some cases where the health insurance company paid $15,000 in medical bills, but our client only received the policy limits of $20,000. After our client paid the attorneys fees of $6,600, they had $13,300 left of the settlement. Then the health insurance company comes and asks for all of the money that our client received in the settlement. How ridiculous is that? Even if our client got to keep all of the $13,300, they still didn't receive all the compensation that they deserved because of the low policy limits. In this example, it would be reasonable to pay back the insurance company about $3,000. Unfortunately, they aren't usually very reasonable. They almost always want to be fully compensated.
In a perfect world, the policy limits requirements in Hawaii would be atleast $100,000. In this perfect world, that would enable most people who are injured in accidents to receive the compensation they deserve. Then, it wouldn't be a probably to pay back the health insurance company for what they paid.
As long as we live in a world with small policy limits of $20,000, it is reasonable for personal health insurance companies to be paid back 20% of what the injury victim receives after paying his/her attorney fees. This would be reasonable. Until the health insurance companies decide to be more reasonable, we will continue to fight them tooth and nail to try to get our clients the maximum compensation possible for their injuries.
This is just one aspect of injury claims in Hawaii that many people may not be aware of. Check out our other Honolulu injury resources webpages for more critical information about auto accident cases.