If a health insurance company paid for any part of your crash-related medical expenses, you must use caution when settling your car accident claim. It is possible for your health insurance to take your money after a car accident settlement or verdict. It results from a federal law called The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA” for short). ERISA sometimes allows your health insurance company to seize the money it spent providing for your accident-related medical care if you are ever paid money by the other driver or the other driver’s auto insurance.
What can happen is that a car accident victim can reach an injury settlement with the other driver’s auto insurance company – with the victim believing that the settlement money is his or hers free and clear. Sometime later, the car accident victim can get a letter from his or her health insurance company stating that the victim is legally obligated to reimburse it for the injury-related medical bills it paid. The letter usually threatens a lawsuit against the victim unless the ERISA “reimbursement” – which can sometimes be as large as the whole settlement –occurs within a limited amount of time.
It does not seem fair, but this sort of thing does happen.
Do not get surprised by a health insurance company’s ERISA claim. Before attempting to settle a car accident claim or deciding whether to sue, it is important to review with an attorney whether or not your health insurance policy exposes you to a potential ERISA claim. An experienced attorney can often take steps to reduce or eliminate your reimbursement obligations under ERISA.
To find out other things to consider before attempting to settle your Iowa car accident case, use the form on this page to download the entire Law Guide to Iowa Car Accident Claims.
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