Paying Your Bills When You’ve Been Injured
If you can’t work because you’ve been injured, how do you pay your bills?
This problem is both awful and common. You’ve been hurt. It’s someone else’s fault. Maybe you slipped in some water that a waiter spilled and they couldn’t be bothered to clean it up or put up a warning sign. Maybe you got broadsided in an intersection by a drunk driver. Maybe you’re a postman delivering your mail, when an unlicensed contractor cuts down a tree and it falls right onto you, tearing up your ankle so you can’t walk for months (true story).
Now here you are. You’ve hired a lawyer to get your medical bills paid and get you fair compensation. You’re ready to sue if you have to, though you’d rather avoid it. You’re doing everything right; and it wasn’t your fault.
But in the meantime, you can’t get to work with a broken hip, or jaw, or with the excruciating back pain that just won’t let up. The painkillers help a little, but not a lot, and you can’t think straight when you take them, let alone work.
So if you can’t get to work, how are you going to pay your rent? Are you going to wind up on the street because of this injury?
Your lawyer will get you fair compensation. Hopefully. Eventually. But it might take months, or even a year or more. What do you do in the meantime?
Option #1: Personal Injury Protection Insurance Coverage
Your first option is to use PIP (Personal Injury Protection) for as much as you legally can. PIP will pay your medical bills, and will pay your lost wages, though the limits are low.
Sometimes it does happen that your own insurance, your PIP (Personal Injury Protection) will not pay your medical bills. Sometimes they send you to a doctor of their choosing and that doctor tells them that he or she thinks you were not injured in the car crash, or that your injuries should have healed by now.
If that happens, PIP may decide to stop paying your medical bills. You might have to get an attorney involved at that point. In Oregon, an attorney can sue your PIP insurance, usually at no cost to you. If that won’t work, you may have to go to your health insurance. If you have it, health insurance will pay when PIP will not pay.
Option #2: Borrow Money from Friends or Family (or Scrape By)
Your second option, is to borrow from friends or relatives.
Here’s an option you don’t have: borrowing from your attorney. Sometimes we wish we could loan money to a client, because we have a winning case, so we will likely get paid back. But it’s illegal. Lawyers are allowed to loan money to their clients for costs of bringing a lawsuit (and we routinely do that), but not for living expenses.
Option #3: Litigation Loans
Your third option is your worst. But it’s better than losing your home. There are companies out there that will loan you money for paying bills after an injury based on your personal injury case’s settlement potential. Some of our clients have used some of these companies, and the experience is mixed. The companies my clients have used have been professional. They want a lot of information so that they are relatively confident that the case is a good one, and worth enough that they will get paid back. They charge high interest, and they charge high fees so that the effective interest rate goes even higher.
On the plus side, if you lose your case, you don’t have to pay them back. And of course, the most important benefit: you can pay your rent and buy food.
These companies are a last resort. But it’s good to know about them. Use them only if absolutely necessary; but when it is absolutely necessary, it’s nice to have them around.