Saturday, May 22, 2010

Pain and Suffering

I used to think that pain and suffering payments were illogical, and when I was called to jury duty, I told the plaintiff’s lawyers that money can’t compensate for pain. Being alive, we all are at risk for accidents that will cause pain.

When I went to the lawyer to get the insurance of the driver who hit me to pay for things it is required by law to cover, like my ambulance ride to the hospital ($500), emergency room care, wages for time lost from work over one week, I told the lawyer – do NOT go after more than the car insurance will pay.

I don’t want to risk costing this man his home, just because he made a momentary mistake and hit me with his car while I was biking.

My lawyer agreed to do what I asked.

The driver’s insurance is not required to pay over $5000 in medical bills. Pennsylvania is a no-fault state. Any medical expenses over that amount come from my insurance. If I owned a car, my car insurance would pay. Since I don’t, my medical insurance is supposed to pay.

The emergency room cut their initial bill of $80,000 down to $10,000. My insurance picked up the difference. The driver’s insurance is also required to pay up to $5000 in property damage and lost wages. They bought me a new bike and a new helmet. They paid for the clothes that the emergency room cut off of me. They paid for a few weeks of lost wages.

I have more expenses than that. I have co-pays for physical therapy and doctor’s visits, and chiropractor’s visits, and prescriptions. I have the full cost of massage therapy. Plus, all this healthcare takes time – time that I can’t be elsewhere earning money. Pain and Suffering is the only category I can ask the driver’s insurance company to look at when I ask them to pay these bills.

I’m not billing them for the pain in my hip that makes me limp around every morning, or the pain in my shoulder that only goes away when I do my morning exercises, stretches, and warm ups. I’m not billing them because I can’t walk as far as I used to. These things are intangible. I knew that cars hit bikes. I was taking a risk. I will live with the pain for as long as it lasts and no amount of money can change that. And I will continue to bike around the city, where I know another crazy driver might hit me.

I’m asking my lawyer to get my bills paid, and he can call it whatever he wants.

Next time I’m called to jury duty, I won’t tell the lawyers for the plaintiff that I don’t believe in pain and suffering payments.

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