In many states, insurance companies have no obligation to pay an injured person’s medical bills until a settlement is reached. The impact of this can be crushing– as the medical bills mount and the medical bill collectors get more aggressive, the injured party becomes forced to take a low settlement simply to get their bills paid. Fortunately, Montana law prohibits this practice. In Montana, an insurance company must advance an injured person’s medical bills even before a settlement is negotiated if its insured is clearly responsible for the injuries. The reason for this is to prevent “leveraging” by the insurance company. Montana’s laws against leveraging have been expanded to include lost wages and other tangible damages such as travel expenses and home care.
Insurance companies may fail to inform an injury victim of their right to require the insurance company to advance them their medical bills or lost wages, or they may take the position that their insured is not “clearly” at fault for the injuries. Other times, such as where there are limited insurance monies available or where an injury victim has other means to pay the medical bills, it may not make sense to demand advance payment of medical bills. An experienced personal injury can help you determine whether the insurance company should be required to advance medical bills, lost wages or other expenses pending resolution of your claim.
Montana law places heightened burdens on insurance companies so that they are required to treat consumers fairly. Montana is one of the few states that place statutory duties on insurance companies to deal fairly and in good faith with injury victims. (In most states, insurance companies have no obligation at all to act fairly towards anyone other than their own insureds.) This area of law is referred to as “bad faith.”
So, under Montana law, when an injury claim is made, the insurance company must promptly investigate the claim and, if its insured is clearly at fault, make an effort to reach a fair and quick settlement. Unfortunately, insurance companies often look for ways around these obligations. One common ploy is to claim that its own insured is not “clearly” responsible, or that the victim is the one who is at fault. Another trick is to claim that the injuries were not “clearly” caused by the accident. Or, the insurance company may request all types of information, useful or not, in order to delay paying a claim.
An experienced personal injury attorney can help you understand and invoke your rights to make the insurance company act in good faith, and can analyze whether you may be entitled to additional compensation for the way the insurance company has handled your claim.