12 options for catastrophic medical expense after an auto accident

Posted on Dec 16, 2013

Question: Who is responsible for all medical expenses for my 19 year old son due to a car accident in which he was injured?

Question Detail: He was thrown from the backseat into the windshield. He was knocked out from the impact and suffers from a 3rd degree concussion and has 46 stitches in his head. He also is having passing out spells, lots of back pain which is causing him to be on medical leave without pay. He has no idea about the insurance info for either vehicle involved in the accident. Who is responsible for all his expenses and what do we do about settling with the insurance company since he is still having so many problems. And is unable to go back to work?

Answer: First let’s give a few examples of catastrophic injuries from a car accident.

  • Quadriplegia
  • Paraplegia
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • First, in the law the first person responsible for an adult’s medical expense is the adult, which in this case is your son. Any assets he has would be used.
  • Second, you’d look to health insurance.
  • Third, in some instances you can consider workers’ compensation insurance.
  • Fourth, there is the auto insurance of the drivers and owners.
  • Fifth, you might have an underinsured claim filed with any policy in which the injured person is considered an “insured” as defined in the policy.
  • Sixth, the State of Iowa’s Medicaid program might provide coverage for the poor and uninsured.
  • Seventh, Medicare could be an option.
  • Eighth, consider alternative sources that proximately caused the accident. Such as adjacent homeowners with limbs hanging in front of a traffic control signal, or those with a broken sprinkler head that wets the road causing moss to grow or any other defect that is created by the adjacent property.
  • Ninth, consider hospital based funds that provide payment for medical care to the indigent.
  • Tenth, consider umbrella policies that add to coverage.
  • Eleventh, consider assets of the drivers and car owners.
  • Twelfth, consider assets of corporate employers of the drivers and owners.

Let me see if I can answer this mother’s specific question. It’s never easy to outline the options when you have had the opportunity to sit down and speak directly to the client. But I’ll try.

If I assume you’re asking about the car’s driver and owner here is what I would consider reasonable. The negligent driver and the owner of the car (according to Iowa law) are responsible. As the parent your auto or health insurance may also cover some of the bills. The answer to your prayers is at the end of an investigation and not from a Q&A answer. There isn’t enough space or time for lawyers providing free advice on this site to provide an actual solution. So please hire a personal injury lawyer to assist you and your son.

Before I go, allow me to discuss the significance of a head injury and possibly traumatic brain injury; which your son may have.

Consider a head injury to be nothing to fool around by guessing while you play lawyer. You need a real answer from professionals qualified to know if he has significant brain damage. There has been a lot of discussion about TBI’s, traumatic brain injuries, closed head injuries, skull fractures, brain damage, brain injuries, contused brains, concussions, post-concussive syndrome and a whole host of other diagnoses for an injury to the head and brain. This is a very technical area of personal injury law and many lawyers don’t have a clue what to do once they get the case. Ignoring the possibility and avoiding the costs of evaluation won’t make it go away.

So what should you do? I'd recommend hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer that understands and has handled closed head injury cases. (These injuries include brain injuries, significant periods of unconsciousness and a fractured skull.) You can hire lawyers on a contingent fee basis to investigate and secure reasonable compensation for your son.

If we can assist you let us know; if not best of luck to you.


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Steve Lombardi
Iowa personal injury, workers' compensation, motorcycle, quadriplegic, paraplegic, brain injury, death