After an accident or injury, there are plenty of costs — things such as medical bills, repair costs, lost wages, etc. With an attorney on your side, the at-fault person’s insurance company should pay for those costs, but in many cases, certain bills and costs fall through the cracks.
If you’ve incurred out-of-pocket expenses related to your injury case, the law allows your attorney to pursue compensation and pay those costs back to you. While nowhere as big as medical bills and lost wages, out-of-pocket expenses can add up and put a significant strain on your wallet.
Out-of-Pocket Expenses 101
In the context of a personal injury case, out-of-pocket expenses refer to any costs related to your accident and injuries. This catch-all term doesn't include medical expenses, which is a clearly defined and major part of the demand package.
Any expense that you have taken on related to the injuries you sustained can be called an out-of-pocket expense. In serious accident cases that result in catastrophic injuries, treatment and negotiations may take years to complete. That whole time you are racking up out-of-pocket costs, putting your pocket book in a tough spot.
Out-of-pocket expenses can range from a few dollars to several thousand dollars, depending on the length of your case. You never know what twists and turns your case will take, so it’s a good idea to carefully track the money you’re spending and save all receipts.
Not all out-of-pocket expenses will be reimbursed by the insurance companies. They are in the business of making money, and they will likely contest or reject some of your expenses. The carrier might ask if a certain cost was necessary or reasonable, considering the injuries you sustained. Be prepared for pushback.
Common Types of Out-of-Pocket Expenses
Any expense that you can prove was caused by the accident should be included in your recovery. Those out-of-pocket costs generally fall into two categories.
Expenses from medical treatment: A common misconception regarding accident injuries is that the doctors and providers will give you everything you need to recover. Unfortunately, victims often must purchase their own items in order to survive, function and heal properly. These items include:
- Prescription medications
- Over-the-counter medications
- Medical equipment (wheelchair, crutches, slings, respirators, etc.)
- Hotel stays for out-of-town medical treatment
Expenses from transportation costs: No everyone is lucky to live near a great hospital or world-class doctors. Most people have to travel to receive treatment, and the cost of getting to and from these appointments can be expensive. These expenses may include:
- Rental car (usually part of the property damage claim)
- Mileage reimbursement
- Parking fees
- Transportation services (bus, Uber/Lyft, train, plane, etc.)
It’s important to note that out-of-pocket expenses are separate from loss of essential services damages. While you may pay for both things the same way, loss of essential services refers to things such as childcare, cleaning help, maintenance help, etc.
Who Pays for Out-of-Pocket Expenses?
Washington state law allows victims to recover all out-of-pocket expenses associated with their personal injury from the at-fault party or the responsible insurance company, as long as those expenses are both reasonable and necessary.
Again, the insurance adjuster investigating your case will take a critical look at the expenses you’ve asked to be paid for. Be prepared to defend your out-of-pocket expenses with evidence (receipts, photos, written opinions, etc.).
How to Prove Out-of-Pocket Expenses
Like every type of damage that you claim in a personal injury case, you will need to prove the value of your losses to the insurance company, or to the court, to make a fair recovery. You may pay for your out-of-pocket damages in different ways depending on the particular expense.
As stated above, it’s important to keep copies of:
- Pharmacy records
- Canceled checks
This type of documentation can help prove the value of the damages that you incurred. Do not let the insurance companies gather the documents or evidence supporting your claim for expenses.
Help from a Washington Personal Injury Attorney
If you or someone you love is injured in an accident, it is important to speak with experienced attorneys who will fight to put every dollar they can in your pocket.
For more information on what to do if you have been in an accident, call Seattle-based Davis Law Group at (206) 727-4000 or fill out a free case review form on our website.