If I Settle My Personal Injury Case Will My Future Medical Care Be Covered By The Other Party’s Insurance?
The quick and easy answer to this question is that any future medical care or treatment related to injuries you sustain in an accident will only be covered if, and only if, a provision regarding this is encompassed within the terms of a settlement agreement- and, frankly, that rarely happens in the personal injury arena. Personal injury cases that resolve by the way of settlement prior to the initiation of a lawsuit, or after litigation has commenced, are typically concluded by the signing of a document called a release. Although the language in a release will vary depending on the involved entity or insurance carrier, the typical language would be that the injured party releases the at-fault party for any claim, of any manner, and specifically the incident in question, for all time up the signing of such a document, and until the "end of time" for any injury caused by the accident- "known or unknown". Some releases actually have that exact language. Unless there is a specific future contingency carved out of the release terms:
An injured person would have no claim for future medical treatment, or right to an additional recovery related to an accident, unless there is a specific provision for it within the terms of that settlement agreement or release.
I've often had clients that are eager to resolve their personal injury case and indeed clients that have wished to resolve their personal injury case before their medical treatment has concluded. I always recommend against this course of action. As a practical matter, the value of a personal injury case cannot be properly assessed without a full and complete understanding of the nature and extent of the injury. Obviously, this is going to call for the opinions of the medical providers in the case and is only available at the conclusion of treatment. Moreover, if a physician is of the opinion that additional medical care will be required due to an injury sustained in an automobile accident that care must be discussed, agreed upon, and included in any settlement agreement. Another way to state this is that if future treatment is not contemplated by the terms of the settlement agreement, it will not be covered by the at-fault party or their insurance company. This discussion applies to settlement, and of course, a judge or jury may make an award for future medical care that is reasonably foreseeable based on medical evidence. If you intend to seek an award for future medical expenses, you must communicate this desire and expectation to your attorney early on in the process. If applicable, it is absolutely vital that you and your personal injury attorney obtain the opinions and conclusions of all of your treating physicians regarding the need for future medical care. If an allowance in a settlement is not made for a contemplated future surgery or future medical procedure, then the ability to recover for that treatment is always going to be foreclosed by the signing of the release.
-This Article was updated by Eric Kirk on 10/23/20.
I have been evaluating, resolving, and litigating personal injury cases for more than 20 years. I've handled thousands of cases in that time. I invite all potential clients to participate in a no-cost analysis and strategy conference. Contact me today to arrange a time to meet. 410 591 2835.