Legal Question in Personal Injury in California

Hi. I was struck by a car while walking in a crosswalk last December. I did not have medical insurance and after one doctor's visit out of my own pocket, realized I could not afford to pay initial costs for treatment up front, so I hired an attorney. That attorney sent me to multiple doctors and advanced her own cash for some of the visits. I asked her and her staff several times if they knew what the policy limit was of the person that hit me, because I do not want to get stuck with the bills and liens. The attorney's office told me that the insurance has a legal right not to disclose that information to them. Yesterday with no explanation I received a "Release in Full of All Claims" form for less than the amount of all my bills.. I called the attorney and again she said that they had no way of knowing this...I find this hard to believe, and question whether they were negligent in pursuing this information before while I have been accumulating bills during treatment, that sound like they may now land on me. I am not sure what to do...the Release of All Claims form doesn't have any mention of the person that hit me's insurance company so I have to wonder also if that is a legitimate Release of Claims form.

Basically, I have no idea where to go from here and any advice would help. Thanks.

Asked on 9/10/10, 12:35 pm

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2 Answers from Attorneys

Rivers Morrell Law Firm of Rivers J. Morrell III

This is a difficult question to answer based on the information provided. It is true that the insurance company is not obligated to disclose the policy limits before a complaint is filed. I don't know if you got that far in the case, but if you did, then you could find out. There are, however, other ways to find out about the policy limits, before a complaint is filed, and these may or may not have been used by your attorney. Some releases don't mention the insurance company, but most do, so that is somewhat unusual, but not critical to the setlement. It seems odd that there was no discussion with you before the settlement was entered into, so I am not sure why that happened. Also, I assume that the doctors you were sent to treated you on a lien, and generally they will take less then they billed, and your attorney should look into that. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE OR DON'T HAVE UIM COVERAGE. If the settlement was for less then the value of your case, find out from your own auto insurance broker if you had UIM coverage. If you owned a car, and had insurance, then you might have UIM coverage that you could pursue for the balance of the value of the case.

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Answered on 9/15/10, 12:56 pm

Michael Stone Law Offices of Michael B. Stone Toll Free 1-855-USE-MIKE

Write a letter to the attorney certified mail return receipt requested. Ask for copies of the complaint filed in the case, together with all other pleadings and discovery documents. Call them and get the case number so you can look up the case online or visit the courthouse to find out the status. The idea that the defendants don't have to disclose their insurance coverage is baloney. In your letter be in sure to mention that you previously requested the defendants' declarations page and you are again requesting it. Do not sign a release until you have received the copies from the attorney and until the attorney agrees to hold you harmless from, and you will not be liable for, any medical bills. If the attorney did not file a lawsuit, demand a written explanation of why no lawsuit was filed.

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Answered on 9/15/10, 1:04 pm

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