Injuries suffered in a serious auto accident can create a significant financial burden, especially when you’ve been left with a disability that requires ongoing care. Obtaining an accurate estimate of future medical costs is essential to ensure a fair personal injury settlement.
Including Future Medical Expenses in a Settlement
Some examples of car accident injuries that may result in the need for ongoing medical care include:
Some of the various forms of medical costs you may need to consider include:
- Lab tests
- Follow-up visits
- Prescription medication
- Rehabilitation and therapy
- Special medical equipment such as wheelchairs, crutches, and prosthetics
- Need for home healthcare or placement in a nursing facility
- Transportation costs related to seeking medical care from specialists who may not live near you
- Modifications to the home environment for handicapped accessibility
- Need for counseling to deal with the emotional trauma associated with your injuries
Loss of future earning potential and pain and suffering compensation will also be higher in cases involving seriously disabling injuries. However, these categories of damages are calculated separately.
Reaching Maximum Medical Improvement
A personal injury claim should only be settled after you’ve reached Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI). This is the point at which your condition has stabilized enough that your healthcare provider can make a reasonable prediction about your future medical needs.
The time necessary to reach MMI can vary, with some victims requiring a year or more to have their condition stabilize. However, it’s important not to rush to a quick judgement. When you’ve suffered a serious injury, unforeseen complications can occur early in the healing process.
Calculating the Cost of Future Medical Care
The cost of medical care is increasing at a rapid rate, and for many middle-class families, healthcare costs are growing faster than wages. For this reason, anticipated future medical expenses should be estimated by several different experts. Some factors to be considered include:
- The extent of your injury
- Your future prognosis
- Treatment goals you’ve already established
- Your age
- Your general health before the accident
- Trends in healthcare inflation related to your geographic area and your specific injury
There are two general approaches to calculating future medical needs: total lifestyle and additional expenses. A total lifestyle approach looks at all related costs to maintain a quality of life that is near what you enjoyed before the accident, while an additional expenses approach is focused more on specific costs related to your injuries. A total lifestyle approach is used when the injury has affected your ability to live independently such as when you’ve suffered a serious brain injury or paralysis.
To support your claim for damages, you’ll need testimony from healthcare providers experienced in the treatment of patients with injuries that are similar to yours, as well as life care planning experts who are experienced in calculating the cost of specific procedures given current inflation rates. A life care planning expert will estimate expenses in several different categories, then calculate a discount rate to bring the future trajectory of medical costs to the appropriate present value.
If you were partially at fault for the accident that resulted in your injuries, your settlement will be proportionally reduced by your assigned percentage of fault. This is intended to reflect your own financial liability for your future medical costs.
Importance of Obtaining Legal Representation
When a personal injury claim involves injuries that will require ongoing medical care, it’s important not to rush to a quick settlement. Once you’ve accepted a settlement, you’re not allowed to ask for additional funds if your treatment needs turn out to be more expensive than you’ve expected.
An experienced personal injury attorney will conduct the research necessary to adequately assess the worth of your case, line up relevant expert testimony, and negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf. This allows you to direct your attention to meeting the treatment goals outlined by your healthcare provider.