Maximize your insurance claim compensation by including all your hard costs with the help of this free Car Accident Damages Checklist.
Auto insurance companies look at your hard costs – meaning measurable expenses like medical bills and lost wages – as the basis for calculating the value of your injury claim.
You can maximize your final compensation by making sure you’ve gathered bills, receipts, and other documentation for every hard cost incurred because of your injuries. Our free Checklist for Injury Hard Costs can help you make sure you don’t overlook any reimbursable expenses.
Click on the image below to download the PDF checklist:
Why Hard Costs Are Important for Your Claim
Hard costs, also called economic damages, are costs, expenses, and financial losses that you would not have incurred if you hadn’t been injured in a car accident. These are measurable economic losses, meaning there is an objective dollar value supported by detailed bills, receipts, and wage statements.
You have a right to expect the at-fault driver to pay for your economic damages, as well as your non-economic damages, commonly referred to as “pain and suffering.” The value of your injury claim can be calculated by totaling your hard costs, and adding a multiple of that total to account for your pain and suffering.
Most car accident victims are compensated for their losses by the at-fault driver’s auto insurance company. The burden is on you (or your attorney) to prove the extent of your damages by providing copies of your bills, receipts, and a lost wages statement.
Once your injury claim is settled, you can’t go back to ask for more, so it’s important to make sure you haven’t overlooked any of your expenses. That’s where a Hard Costs Checklist comes in handy.
Claim the Full Cost of Medical Treatment
When you seek compensation, your settlement demand should include the full cost of your medical bills, before any adjustments for Medicare, Medicaid, or other health insurance. Don’t count your copay or deductible amount, only the full amount of the medical bill.
Let’s say you are treated for a broken arm after a car accident. The doctor charges $300 to examine you and put your arm in a cast. When the bill comes, it shows your health insurance company paid $200, leaving you with $100 to pay for your copay and deductible. Your claim to the at-fault driver’s insurance company should include the full $300 cost of that medical visit.
Keep in mind that Medicaid, Medicare, the VA, and private health insurance companies have the right to put a medical lien against your injury settlement to recover the amounts they paid on your behalf. So make sure you get enough from your car insurance claim to cover the full cost of your medical care, even if it didn’t come out of your pocket or the bill hasn’t been paid yet.
You will have more than one bill for hospital care and some diagnostic tests. For example, an X-Ray or MRI will generate a bill from the facility where you had the test. There will also be a separate bill from the radiologist who interpreted the images and made the diagnosis. Similarly, you might be billed by the hospital emergency department and get a separate bill from the ER physician.
Keep track of all your medical and therapy appointments with a calendar or day planner. Before making a settlement demand to the insurance company, go through your calendar and make sure you have bills corresponding to each of your appointments.
You may have to send a written request for copies of your medical bills and records. You must have both. The medical bills prove the cost of your treatment. Your medical records link your injuries directly to the car accident and justify the need for your medical treatment.
The adjuster might ask you to sign an authorization that lets them request your bills and records. They’re not doing you a favor, so be careful.
Don’t sign a blanket release form that lets the adjuster get their hands on your personal medical history for the last five or ten years. If you agree to sign a medical authorization, but sure it’s limited to records about your car accident injuries.
Insurance adjusters will go over your medical bills and records with a fine-tooth comb, looking for reasons to reject some costs, or even your entire claim.
Insurance companies are only obligated to pay reasonable and necessary medical costs, so steer clear of “accident doctors” who will inflate your medical costs by ordering repeated tests or questionable treatments. You might end up on the hook for any bills the insurance company won’t pay.
Some bills might detail more than one date of service. For example, if you had to go to physical therapy three times a week for two months, you might have bills that show multiple treatment dates. Look them over carefully.
It helps to organize your injury claim paperwork and bills in date order. You can sort medical and therapy bills by provider, and then by date.
Don’t Overlook Out-of-Pocket Expenses
You won’t count medical bill copays, because you’ll be asking for the full amount of your bill. However, all other out-of-pocket costs are fair game to include in your settlement demand so long as you have receipts or other documentation to back them up.
Common out-of-pocket expenses include over-the-counter medications, ointments, bandages, tape, wraps, and more. The cost of renting or buying crutches, a wheelchair, or even a hospital-type bed for home can be claimed if your doctor agrees there is a need.
Transportation costs for travel to and from medical and therapy appointments are legitimate expenses. You can track your round-trip mileage at the current Federal rate, or keep gas receipts, and you can also use your receipts for parking. Alternately, you can seek reimbursement for carfare if you use a taxi or rideshare service.
If you have severe or complicated injuries that need to be treated by a specialist far from your home, you may be able to claim the cost of meals and lodging for you and your traveling companion.
Get a dated receipt for replacement services you had to hire because of your injuries. Replacement services can include childcare, house cleaning, snow shoveling or yard care, and even dog walking if these are activities you would have done yourself if you hadn’t been injured in a car accident.
A Word About Wages
Your employer should be willing to provide a wage statement for the dates you missed work after the accident, even if you used vacation or sick leave. Be sure the statement includes lost overtime or performance bonuses you missed out on during your recovery.
Self-employed car accident victims can use prior tax year information, profit-and-loss statements, and other evidence to show reduced income and lost work opportunities caused by the crash. Letters or emails can verify work projects you lost or had to turn down because of your injuries.
Lost wage claims should be supported by a doctor’s note prohibiting you from work, no matter if you are self-employed or work for an employer. Be sure to talk to your doctor about the demands of your occupation and the limitations imposed by your car accident injures.
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