It is bad enough to be in a car accident. It is worse to have to go to the hospital, and it is an insult when you are tricked into signing over ALL of your insurance by the hospital. But the icing on the cake is when your insurance refuses to pay up. Can this really happen? Yes. How? Here is a good example.
When you go to the hospital after an accident, you usually have to sign some forms to get treatment. These forms are meant to give your Consent to treatment. Over time hospital billing departments have loaded their intake forms up with extra terms and conditions to make sure the hospital can collect in full. Now the forms also contain an “Assignment of Benefits.” This clause turns your valuable right to get PIP benefits for wage losses over to the hospital and it cannot be revoked later on. You have to know what you are looking for to find and understand these boilerplate terms and may be in no physical condition to read them.
What’s more, is that even if you do know about the Assignment Clause, can you refuse to sign it? If you come in due to an emergency, Federal law prohibits a hospital from refusing emergency treatment. So, in my opinion you can refuse to sign the Assignment of Benefits clause, or can strike through it with your pen to delete it.
Recently one of my clients was in a head on crash caused by a drunk driver. She went to Florida Hospital in Flagler County, Florida via ambulance. She had both arms and wrists broken in the collision, and required surgery. So, she was in no condition to even sign anything. The usual forms she was asked to sign were described to her as simply a “Consent to Treatment” form. She had to give verbal consent since she could not sign. Luckily for her, the lack of her signature gave her the right to allocate her $10,000 in PIP benefits toward her future lost wages, since she knew she would not be able to go back to work for months. As her lawyer I made that assignment on her behalf.
She assigned $5,000 out of her $10,000 in benefits toward her future loss of income. How? I sent a notice of this allocation to her insurance company (think of the lizard). This was sent a) before all of her benefits were used up and b) in writing, and c) without assigning her benefits to the hospital.
GEICO is refusing to send her wage loss checks, so we are now getting ready to sue GEICO. Why? Because GEICO mistakenly thinks she assigned her insurance over to the Hospital. Before I can file suit I must follow a technical procedure under Florida statutes which requires me to send a 30 day NOTICE OF INTENT TO INITIATE LITIGATION. After 30 days GEICO will be sued for breach of contract unless it pays up.
Isn’t it crazy that after paying premiums for this coverage, being in a head on collision, and trying to get Coverage that GEICO is still refusing to pay? Clients should not have to go through this, but I guess that is why they need a good lawyer.