Insurance

5 Things To Know about Medical Debt and Bill Collectors

Many of my personal injury clients tell me they would have never sought the help of a lawyer if the at-fault person (bad driver, building owner, negligent business) would have simply paid their medical bills.  Medical bills can quickly spiral out of control and it seems that there is no way to ever pay them off.   Thankfully personal injury lawyers and consumer lawyers can often help people with getting their medical bills paid off.  Attorneys may be able to get insurance coverage for the bills, force the negligent party pay the medical bills, or work with the medical provider to accept a reduced amount.   However, sometimes that is not possible, and the debt must be paid.  In that case, there are things you should know.  The National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) has published a great article that has valuable information for anyone that is dealing with medical debt. 

luis-melendez-530478-unsplash.jpg

Below a few highlights from the article:

  1. Pay Medical Debt Last: Don't ignore it, but you may want to pay off your other debt before medical debt.  This is due to the fact that it is on the lowest priority of debt.  Also, do not take out a loan or credit card to pay medical debt.   This is due to the fact medical debt often has little or no interest in it.  Credit cards and loans have interest, so you will pay more to pay off the original debt.
  2. Debt Collectors Powers Are Limited:  Many medical providers will assign your debt to a debt collector.  These are the people that call to annoy and harass you into paying off the debt.  However, there bark is often bigger than their bite.   Medical Debt is unique in that credit reporting agencies will not include it in a credit report until it is over six months old. This is important because debt collectors will often tell people their credit will be trashed if they don't pay up immediately.   If debt collectors continue to call you or attempt to contact you, you also can send them a letter telling them to stop. Federal law prevents them from continuing to contact you after receiving that letter. 
  3. Medical Debt is Often Not Reported to Credit Agencies:  Often, many medical providers do not report medical debt to the three major credit reporting agencies. However, debt collectors may.
  4. You Can Still Go to the Emergency Room If You Owe the Hospital Money: Federal law (Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA)) prohibits hospitals from turning people away from the ER due to their inability to pay. 
  5. You Might Be Able to Correct the Bills:  Medical bills can contain errors.  You can work with the medical provider to correct the mistake or get the bills covered by insurance.   

The article contains a lot of helpful additional information that you should read to help you understand your rights and obligations with medical debt.  If you have incurred medical debt as a result of another person injuring you call Ross Law LLC at 503.224.1658.  Jeremiah Ross represents people that have been injured by the negligence of another and consumers.  Please note the information in this article is for informational purposes only and the law is constantly changing.  DO NOT SOLELY RELY ON THIS POST.  SPEAK WITH A LAWYER to fully understand your rights and obligations on medical debt. This post could be considered attorney advertising. 

Reimbursement for Transportation to Crash Related Medical Appointments?

Here in Oregon we are fortunate to have Personal Injury Protection Benefits, or "PIP" benefits.  PIP benefits are no fault auto insurance benefits that allow people that are in car crashes to receive up to $15,000.00 to cover crash related medical expenses.  (Click here for a more detailed explanation of all PIP benefits and limitations).   Although the law mandates Oregon Auto Insurers to provide PIP benefits, it is not always clear exactly what are crash related medical expenses.  More specifically, does an Oregon Auto Insurance policy provide benefits to reimburse a person to travel to medical appointments?  Oregon's Supreme Court recently said no.  PIP benefits do not include transpiration costs to receive medical benefits.  

This is a blow to injured people in Oregon that rely on these benefits, and especially rural Oregonians.   This is due to the fact that folks living in urban areas have easy access to medical care.  However, people living on the Oregon Coat, in Southern Oregon, Central Oregon and Eastern Oregon may have to travel hours to see a medical specialist and even stay in a hotel.   Unfortunately, Oregon's Court did not find that argument compelling.

The Oregon Supreme Court  addressed the issue of whether or not medical transportation is reimbursable under Oregon's PIP law, ORS 742.520 (1).  In Dowell v. Oregon Mutual Ins. Co. 361 Or 62 (2017),  the court analyzed the 2007 PIP statute which notes Oregon Auto Insurance Policies must have a provision that that covers:

"All reasonable and necessary expenses of medical, hospital, dental, surgical, ambulance and prosthetic services incurred within one year after the date of the person’s injury, but not more than $15,000 in the aggregate for all such expenses of the person.” ORS 742.524(1)(a)

It is important to note, the law has since changed to allow services for two years after the date of the person's injury.   However, that did not effect the court's analysis in this case.   The court determined ORS 742.524 did not intend expenses for ordinary transportation to receive medical treatment or to obtain medication .  Again this is not good news for injured Oregonians and we can only hope for a legislative fix.   

All hope is not lost though.  You may still be able to recover transportation costs to medical care from the at-fault driver.  If you or someone you know has questions about your PIP benefits please call Jeremiah Ross at 503.224.1658. Ross Law LLC is happy to give you a free telephonic case evaluation.    

Also, remember the law is always changing.   Please rely on the text of the Court's decision and not solely on this post. Also, remember to rely on the current statute as the legislature is constantly changing the laws.   Lastly, this post is not intended to be legal advice and is for informational purposes only.   This could also be considered legal advertising.   

Do you Need to Fill Out a Form To Notify DMV if You Have a Car Crash In Oregon?-Link to DMV Form Attached

My wife and I were driving home yesterday on Mclaughlin Blvd near Holgate when we saw this:

 All Three Cars In Crash Should Fill Out DMV Form

All Three Cars In Crash Should Fill Out DMV Form

This was a three car rear end collision.  The vehicle in the back received the brunt of the damage.  Everyone looked as if they did not have any immediate serious injuries, and there was not any emergency personnel on scene.  This is exactly the type of crash that one driver may not report to the Oregon DMV, because they didn't think it was serious enough.  Most likely the driver in the car in the front, would not think to report the collision because their car had minimal visible damage.  However, this may be a mistake because the rear car was likely towed from the scene and had more than $1500.00 of property damage.  The information below should be useful to people like those involved in the crash above.

DRIVERS INVOLVED IN CRASH MUST FILL OUT THE OREGON TRAFFIC ACCIDENT AND INSURANCE REPORT IF:
1: Damage to your vehicle is over $1500.00
2: Any person is injured (even minor injuries)
3: Any person is killed
4: Damage to any person’s property is $1500.00
5: Any vehicle has damage over $1500.00 and any vehicle is towed from the scene because of crash.
— Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles

The DMV Accident and Insurance form is very self explanatory.  A link to DMV form 735-32 is here:

Do I Have To Fill Out the Insurance Information?  Yes, it is important to do so.  If you do not fill in the Insurance Information on the DMV form the DMV may consider you uninsured.

Where Do You Mail the DMV Form? After completing the DMV Accident Form you MUST Mail or FAX the form to Accident Reporting Unit, DMV, 1905 Lana Ave NE, Salem OR 97314.

Can I Fax The Accident form to the Oregon DMV?  Yes, as of today's date the fax number is 503-945-5267.

Can I Deliver the Form to a DMV Office?  Yes.

Do I Use the same DMV Accident Form (735-32) if I was driving a Commercial Vehicle?  Yes, but you also must fill out and file DMV Form 735-9229 (Motor Carrier Crash Report) within 20 days of the commercial vehicle crash.

If you, or someone you know, has been in an Oregon Car crash call me at 503.224.1658.  Ross Law is happy to address any questions you may have regarding the Oregon Accident and Insurance form.   Please remember the links and the law regarding forms are constantly changing.  PLEASE CALL A LAWYER and DO NOT RELY SOLELY ON THIS POST.  This post, this blog, and this web-site may be considered Attorney Advertising. 

If you were injured by Fireworks-Who is Responsible for your medical bills?

It is that time of year again.  People are dusting off their American Flags to hang on their porch, getting their barbecues ready, and stocking up on booze and fireworks.   The Fourth of July can be a blast, but it can also end in tragedy.   The Fourth of July is one of the few holidays where people often check there common sense at the door.  When people don't use common sense then they can injure others or themselves. 

 

People can be burned, maimed, or killed by fireworks.  Both legal and illegal fireworks are equally dangerous if used improperly.   When people are injured by fireworks, who is going to pay for the medical bills?  Well, like most things in the law, that is not an easy question.  However, there are some people or entities that may be responsible for the injuries caused by a firework.   The list below is not exhaustive, but it may help you determine whether or not you should call a lawyer.

1) The person that lit the firework.  Many times it is the same person that is injured.  That is why I noted "injured person" as number two.  However, if the person that lit the firework injured another, there home-owners or renters insurance may be responsible for paying your medical bills and compensating you for your injuries and lost wages.

2) The injured person.  Many incidents involving fireworks are caused by a lack of common sense or judgment.  Most people automatically want to blame the injured person for the injury.  However, people should not be so quick to rush to judgment.   This is based on a few factors. 1) The injured person may not done anything wrong, and it could have been a defective product; 2) The injured person may have been an innocent bystander that was simply watching the fireworks; 3) There may have been a lack of warnings on the packaging that may have helped prevent the incident; 4) Even if the person lighting the firework failed to exercise proper judgment and common sense, then there is comparative fault.  It could be combination of all of the factors above that resulted in the injury.

3) The property owner may have no fault insurance or "med pay."  Many insurance policies have no fault insurance (usually $5,000.00) called "Med pay."  This insurance can pay the injured persons medical bills up to the insurance policy limits. This is great insurance, because it doesn't matter who is at fault.

4) The property owner's liability insurance may be responsible for paying medical bills and compensating the injured person.   Many property owner's or renters have insurance that may cover injuries from fireworks.  An attorney will most likely have to investigate the incident to determine if the home-owner or business had any fault, but it is possible.  Maybe the homeowner supplied the fireworks?  Maybe the homeowner knew or should have known the injured person was too intoxicated to be lighting fireworks, but kept serving them alcohol?  Maybe the homeowner instructed the injured person to light the fireworks off in a certain area or in a certain way?  Any of these issues may result in the homeowner's insurance being liable for the injured person's medical bills and compensation for the injuries.

5) The manufacturer.  In certain cases it may be possible to show that the firework was a defective product.   This defective product caused the injured person's injuries so the company that made the product should be liable for the injuries.  These cases are not easy, but in certain circumstances, that may be a viable claim.

5) A bar, a homeowner,  or other establishment that over-served the person that lit the fireworks.  This is the "dram shop" liability rule.  In Oregon, if a social host or a place that serves alcohol (bar, restaurant, concert venue, etc.) serves alcohol to a person that is visibly intoxicated then the bar or social host may be responsible for any damages the drunk person causes.  This is a tricky legal theory that requires an attorney to promptly investigate the incident to figure out these facts. 

This list is not exhaustive, there are others that may be responsible for your medical bills, lost wages, and compensation if you are injured by a firework. However, if you are injured by a firework, then you should call Personal Injury Attorney Jeremiah Ross at 503.224.1658 for your free personal injury consultation.  Ross Law LLC is a Portland Personal Injury law firm that is happy to assist you hold the responsible parties accountable.  If you want to read tips on what to do if you were injured by a firework, read this blog post.  

Cyclists Must Be Careful in Tom McCall Park and the East Esplanade-Pedestrians can Get Hit

The eighty degree days have released a flood of bike commuters onto Portland's streets.   As a bike commuter myself, I have started to regularly bike commute with my toddler in a bike trailer.  My little guy and I do our best to stay on low traffic bike friendly streets.  However, once we are in downtown things can change depending on where we go.  

The bike path along Tom McCall park is our primary thoroughfare.  This long scenic pathway is a great place to duck away from vehicles.  However, it has its own unique dangers.   First, it is crowded by walkers, joggers, runners and kids.   These folks are enjoying a walk along the river and are often unaware of bikers passing by.   This problem gets compounded when cyclist are crossing the narrow sidewalk on the Hawthorne Bridge or the Steel Bridge and on certain areas of the East Bank Esplanade.    

Tips For Riding on Tom McCall Park and The East Esplanade
1) Slow Down
2) Give an audible warning when passing pedestrians from behind
3) Give pedestrians lots of room when passing
4) Look both ways when merging onto the path
5) Remember there is a bike lane on Naito Parkway if the pathway is too congested

To avoid a collision or near miss with a pedestrian cyclist should provide an audible signal when approaching people from behind.  I have personally witnessed a cyclist run into a pedestrian.  That incident could have been avoided if the cyclist simply would have provided an audible signal to warn the person.  This is not only a good idea, but it is also the law.  In this area of Portland  ORS 814.410 applies.  That law states:

(1) A person commits the offense of unsafe operation of a bicycle on a sidewalk if the person does any of the following: (b) Operates a bicycle upon a sidewalk and does not give an audible warning before overtaking and passing a pedestrian and does not yield the right of way to all pedestrians on the sidewalk.

However, many joggers have headphones in, so an audible warning may not be beneficial.  That is why you need to slow down.  Us Cyclist need to remember that we need to slow down when the area gets congested with pedestrians.  I often see folks on road-bikes darting in and out of pedestrians at a high rate of speed.  At those speeds it is impossible to avoid a collision if a small child runs in front of the cyclist.   This type of behavior could also be considered a violation of ORS 814.410(c) which prohibits riding carelessly. 

 

Cyclist should also give pedestrians a lot of room while passing them.  Many pedestrians are tourist that are unfamiliar with the cyclist and the speed they travel at.  I have seen pedestrians and children dart in front of cyclist.   Giving yourself a cushion to react in case someone darts in front of you is a must.  

Lastly, Cyclist should look both ways before merging onto the main path that parallels the river.  I have seen cyclist  turn onto the path without accounting for cyclist approaching from behind them.  Pulling out in front of another cyclist can cause a collision. 

If you have been hit by a cyclist you should get the cyclist information and witness information.  The easiest thing to do is to take a photo of their ID on your smart-phone.  Insurance may provide coverage for the incident, but you must get the name of the cyclist that hit you in order to do so.  Cyclist v. Pedestrian collisions can cause severe injuries.  Broken bones and severe strains and sprains can be common.  If you have been injured by a cyclist call Ross Law LLC at 503.224.1658.  Jeremiah Ross is happy to discuss your case with you and provide you a free personal injury case evaluation. 

Please remember the law is constantly changing and to consult with an attorney if you have any legal issue or question.   

 

HOW AUTO INSURANCE COMPANIES DETERMINE WHAT YOU PAY

A recent Consumer Reports article highlights the need for Insurers to become more transparent as to how they arrive at insurance quotes. 

According to the article, insurance companies judge you based on your socio-economic factors more than your driving  habits.    Insurance companies are very secretive on how they arrive at insurance quotes.  Their quotes come from very complex formulas.  This results in a large price disparity between companies for the same coverage.

The article then rates how the big five insurance companies stack up for male and female drivers.

The results are as follows:

Allstate charges an average of $1570.00 for coverage.

Progressive charges an average of $1,414.00 for the same coverage.

GEICO charges an average of $1,177.00 for the same coverage.

State Farm charges an average of $1,147 for the same insurance coverage.

USAA charges the least amount, $817, for the same  insurance coverage.

There is no logic or rational for the large disparity in quotes for the same coverage.   Consumers should demand transparency in Insurance pricing formulas, so they can make educated decisions when choosing an Auto Insurer.

If you have questions about insurance coverage issues or you were injured and have a dispute with an insurance company, call Jeremiah Ross at 503.224.1658.  As a Portland Oregon Personal Injury Attorney and Consumer Attorney, he can assist you in your battle against the Insurance Companies.

Please remember this post is for informational purposes only .  It does  not constitute legal advice or create an Attorney Client relationship.