Financial Aftermath of a DUI Banner

Financial Aftermath of a DUI

Victims of drunk-driving accidents have significant challenges in many arenas, not the least of which is financial. If your loved one was killed as the result of such an accident, you will suddenly need to pay funeral expenses, medical bills, and travel expenses. And that doesn’t include the magnitude associated with lost wages. If you or a loved one was injured in an accident, you may have medical bills, counseling, and vehicle repair or replacement. When wages are lost—for a short period of time or a lifetime—everything changes.

When someone chooses to drink and drive, he or she is taking other people’s lives into their hands. They make a reckless choice that can harm even the safest of sober drivers, making the innocent driver’s recovery an often long and slow path back to normal life physically, emotionally, and financially.

The injury attorneys at Thompson Law Firm in Phoenix have significant experience in helping clients who have experienced difficulties with their mental recovery after being in a DUI accident.  Our offices are conveniently located in ChandlerPeoria, and North Phoenix, and we can meet in-person or over the phone or video call.  You can contact us for a free consultation, or read on to find out more.

By the way, we will also help with other problems that have cost you sleep, like getting a rental car very soon and finding a nearby doctor or psychiatrist who can help get your life back on track. Even the best legal team isn’t good enough if your quality of life isn’t sustainable while justice and compensation are on the way. The whole point of legal action is to regain quality of life, so we help you long-term as attorneys and short-term as your go-to people.

If you are unsure whether or not you can afford an attorney, don’t worry. We only get paid when you settle. Check out our Attorney Fees Calculator to find out more.

There are three individual parts within this article. Look at Part 1 if your relative was killed in a DUI. Look at Part 2 if you were the one injured. Part 3 applies to both situations.

Part 1: When Death Occurs

When a loved one dies in a motor vehicle accident at the hands of a drunk driver, the emotional pain can be overwhelming. Unfortunately, you cannot focus solely on your feelings because you have to deal with the financial effects of the incident. Everyone has some level of financial change because of the death of a loved one, whether it is a life-shattering change or something less. There will be a number of financial decisions to make, all while managing tumultuous emotions. This becomes an even more stressful situation if you were not involved in financial matters before your loved one’s death.

It is important to seek the counsel of family and friends who can support you through these financial difficulties. You may also want to consult with a professional financial advisor as warranted by your individual situation. First, sort out debts and discover the resources you have available. Find documents that relate to all of your financial matters: bank accounts, insurance policies, trusts, stocks, bonds, and real estate. Determine if there is a will and gather paperwork from tax returns. Be sure you have located all policies. Contact your attorney, financial advisor, banker, accountant, and the deceased’s employer. Be exhaustive in your search and research. Millions of insurance dollars go uncollected annually because those left behind didn’t know there were policies.

To complete all of the various types of claims, obtain at least 12 certified or original copies of the death certificate. Most agencies do not accept photocopies. You may also need your marriage license, birth certificates, social security numbers, and military discharge papers.

Possible Financial Resources to Consider

Car Insurance

Your automotive insurance may offer death benefits, property benefits, and medical benefits. In addition, you should inquire about coverage for a rental car, lost wages, replacement costs of services needed, and compensation for pain and suffering. In some cases, insurance companies will not pay for many of these benefits and a civil law suit may be the next step. Arizona is a fault state when it comes to insurance. That means that, if the driver who was at fault has liability insurance, you will be eligible to receive those benefits.

If the driver had no liability insurance, you may be eligible to receive benefits from the underinsured/uninsured coverage on your policy. When you are approached by an insurance adjuster, take precautions to not sign any papers unless you are certain of what you’re signing. This is a good time to consult with an attorney to ensure that you are getting all of the benefits to which you’re entitled.

Medical Insurance

If the deceased had medical insurance, it should cover the majority of medical bills that the automotive insurance does not. Review health insurance and hospital policies to know how to file claims for payment. After you have located all policies, notify each insurance company about the incident and request appropriate forms. If you have any issues in dealing with insurance companies or they refuse to cover expenses, contact the state board of insurance. There could be a legal compliance issue that results in a suit filed against the insurance company.

Life Insurance

Money from a life insurance should be immediately payable to the beneficiary. It is possible that there will be delays, especially in the instance that suicide is a possibility—even if remotely.

Remember to review all policies carefully before filing a claim. Some life insurance policies have double indemnity or triple indemnity benefits when the insured died in a catastrophic accident. Many policies also have an incontestability clause that says that the insurance company cannot dispute a policy’s validity after it has been in force for a certain period of time. Notify any insurance companies for which the deceased was a beneficiary and let them know of the death so you can change the beneficiary moving forward.

Employee Benefits

If the victim worked for a company, reach out to the HR department to inquire about all benefits and unused sick and vacation time, and ask when checks will be sent. If the deceased carried health insurance for the family, ask how long coverage will continue. Coverage will not continue indefinitely, so be sure you’re aware of options to extend, such as COBRA. Also look into other options for health insurance as you move forward.

If the surviving spouse is employed by a company, those policies should be checked as well. Update the beneficiaries and see if the deceased was covered. While reviewing employee benefits, look for mental health counseling, which may be needed during this period of grief.

For the survivor, communicate with your employer to ask about time off for all of the components that will need to be tended to over the coming days and months.

Social Security and Veterans’ Benefits

In many cases, these benefits are available to the surviving spouse and child. A small death benefit to assist with funeral expenses is also available to the surviving spouse or eligible minor children. Be sure to notify Social Security and, for veterans, the Veterans’ Administration, as soon as possible after a death occurs.

For Social Security, the surviving spouse may be eligible for the full monthly retirement benefits or reduced benefits, depending on their age. If the spouse is disabled, benefits are usually given at a younger age, and age doesn’t matter if there are children under the age of 16 in the home. To file a Social Security claim, visit the closest office.

You can find Arizona locations here

To file a claim with the Veterans’ Administration, visit the local VA at 3333 N Central Ave, Phoenix.

Note that if the person killed was receiving benefits, and a check arrives following death, it must be returned if it is made out to the deceased only. If it’s made to the deceased and surviving spouse jointly, you can take it to the nearest office where it will be stamped before it can be cashed or deposited.

Part 2: When Injury Occurs

If you or a loved one was injured in an accident, you are dealing with a variety of emotions and challenges, including traumatic injuries and medical treatments. In addition, there is the financial impact of the incident, which when added to the other issues, can add up to a tremendous burden. During this time, you and your family will need to make financial decisions that could affect the rest of your lives. The challenge is compounded if you are suddenly having to manage finances when you weren’t dealing with them before your loved one was injured.

Create a supportive network of friends and family who can assist you during this time. It might also be a smart choice to seek the counsel of a financial advisor to help navigate what lies ahead. First, you must identify what are your debts, assets, and resources. Collect important documents concerning bank accounts, insurance policies, employer benefits, trusts, living wills and powers of attorney, and any investments. Also, gather paperwork on tax returns.I

f your loved one is unable to speak for themselves, contact your financial and legal team, which may include your attorney, financial planner, accountant, and banker. Exhaust your search of paperwork; millions of dollars of insurance payouts go uncollected because no one knew about the policies.

Possible Financial Resources to Consider

Car Insurance

Your automotive insurance may offer property and medical benefits. In addition, you should inquire about coverage for a rental car, lost wages, replacement costs of services needed, and compensation for pain and suffering. In some cases, insurance companies will not pay for many of these benefits and a civil law suit may be the next step. Arizona is a fault state when it comes to insurance. That means that, if the driver who was at fault has liability insurance, you will be eligible to receive those benefits.

If the driver had no liability insurance, you may be eligible to receive benefits from the underinsured/uninsured coverage on your policy. When you are approached by an insurance adjuster, take precautions to not sign any papers unless you are certain of what you’re signing. This is a good time to consult with an attorney to ensure that you are getting all of the benefits to which you’re entitled.

Medical Insurance

If your loved one has medical insurance, it should cover the majority of medical bills that the automotive insurance does not. Some unions and professional organizations offer health insurance as well, so identify if there are additional benefits beyond what the employer offers. Be sure to know how to file claims by reviewing health insurance and hospital policies. The injured party needs to notify the medical insurance and automotive insurance company/adjusters. The insurance companies will then begin conversations with the offender’s insurance companies.

Review policies to see if they offer a “waiver of premiums” benefit that covers the premiums for the injured party. Immediately start to keep a chronological journey of all aspects of the injury as well as treatment, counseling, and lost wages. If you have any issues in dealing with insurance companies or they refuse to cover expenses, contact the state board of insurance. There could be a legal compliance issue that results in a suit filed against the insurance company.

Employee Benefits

The person who was injured will need to determine how long they are able to stay out of work, if necessary, and how long their return-to-work rights will continue. They should ask their employer if they can get an unpaid leave of absence if injuries keep them out of work longer than their paid leave allows. They should also learn if a transfer is possible if they have limitations that will prevent them from returning to their previous role. It’s also important to ask if the employer will continue to pay insurance premiums during their absence.

You may also want to reach out to your US congressperson for information about the Americans with Disabilities Act and Family Leave Act to ensure that you are getting all of the benefits afforded you by law.When speaking with the employer, get an agreement in writing, if possible. Sometimes, you can work with victim advocates to receive employer intervention services, if that’s needed.If it is your loved one who was injured, and they are unable to manage employee benefits themselves, a family member must be assigned to do so.

That person should contact the employer’s HR department to request information about benefits, sick leave, and vacation time, and ask when to expect checks. If other family members are covered under the employee’s insurance, ask how long coverage will continue. If coverage with be discontinued on a certain date, be sure you’re aware of options to extend, such as COBRA. Also look into other options for health insurance as you move forward.

While reviewing employee benefits, look to see if mental health counseling is covered should it be needed. Get clarification from employers as to whether vacation time will need to be used for medical and legal appointments as well as court hearings.

Social Security Disability

A person who worked prior to the crash and is injured or unable to return to work following the incident may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. According to the definition of “disabled,” the employee must be unable to participate in substantial work for at least one year or the condition must be expected to lead to death. Speak to your physician about projections for returning to work. If benefits are approved, they continue until death, until the condition improves, or until the person is able to secure substantial employment.

Once a person is injured, you can immediately apply for benefits. The application process for benefits is arduous, so it is a good idea to apply as soon as possible. If your application is rejected, reapply or submit an appeal. If Social Security deems you/the injured person to be disabled, benefits will not start to be paid until five full calendar months following the onset of the disability. Once the person receives Social Security disability for at least 24 months, they may be eligible for federal health insurance benefits under Medicare.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, is a Social Security program designed for low-income individuals with minimal assets and who qualify due to age or disability. Generally speaking, if you meet the requirements for Social Security disability, you will meet SSI’s requirements as well.

The limits as to how much you can earn and receive in benefits depend on where you live. Income includes work, Social Security, pensions, and alimony; benefits such as free food and shelter also count as income. As with Social Security disability, you need to apply early. There is no waiting period for SSI once eligibility requirements are met. If you are eligible for SSI, you may also receive Medicaid benefits, which will help pay for medical bills.

Veterans’ Benefits

If the person who is injured is a veteran, they may receive free care at the local VA hospital. Active duty military personnel who are injured may be eligible for disability payments. Contact the Veterans’ Administration directly to learn more.

Vocational Rehabilitation Services

All states offer vocational rehabilitation programs for people who suffer a disability that leads to a substantial handicap to employment or for those who might benefit from using vocational rehab to find suitable employment. The services cover medical, psychological, and vocational evaluation and treatment. That can include hospitalization, surgery, and therapy to either eliminate or reduce the disability. Durable medical equipment may be used, along with training to learn a new skill. In Arizona, vocational rehab falls under the auspices of DES.

Civil Rights and Legal Assistance for Disabled Individuals

Federal law protects the rights of disabled individuals in the areas of education, employment, and healthcare. If you feel your rights, or those of a loved one, have been violated, contact the Office for Civil Rights.

Affirmative action is associated with civil rights, and every employer doing business with the federal government under contract must abide by the affirmative action regulations. If you believe a job has been denied due to a disability, you should file a complaint with the Office of Federal Contract Compliance, Department of Labor, Washington, DC 20210.

Part 3: When a Death or Injury Occurs

Crime Victim Compensation

Arizona, like all other states, has a crime victim compensation program that reimburses victims of crimes and their families for out-of-pocket, non-property expenses. Covered benefits include the cost of a funeral, medical expenses, lost wages, and some other financial needs. Remember that these benefits only pick up after other coverage is depleted, such as insurance.

Often, the crime victim compensation is considered a payor of last resort. Mental health counseling is always covered, and emergency funds are often available within weeks of the event. The crime must have been reported to the police within 3–5 days of the incident, and the victim and their family must cooperate with the police in the investigation of the case. The application must be made within 6–12 months of the incident.

If you have challenges covering funeral expenses, let your funeral director know that you will be applying for victim compensation. With that knowledge, the director may be willing to delay billing until those funds are available. Save all receipts and bills to submit with your application.

Restitution

Restitution is money paid by the offender or guilty party directly to the victim, which is ordered by the court. The idea behind restitution is that the offender is made to be personally, fiscally responsible for their part in the crime. Restitution may cover medical bills, funeral costs, lost wages, and mental health counseling, as well as other expenses approved by the court.

Victims must submit a request along with bills or receipts they wish to be covered; these requests go to the criminal court judge via the prosecutor prior to sentencing. Restitution is not guaranteed, easy to get, or quick to receive. It depends on the conviction the offender receives, which may not occur for months or years following the incident.

In addition, offenders often do not have the means to pay restitution, particularly when they are sent to prison. If restitution is not paid in full, the defendant’s probation may be extended up to five years. If, at the end of their sentence, the offender still has not paid restitution in full, a criminal restitution order is filed on what remains. The order can then be enforced in civil court. Methods of collecting restitution are fair at best. Unfortunately, many victims never see all (or any) of the promised money.

State and County Social Services

If your family has suffered a death or substantial injuries as a result of the incident, you may be eligible for emergency short-term assistance. This usually comes in the form of vouchers that cover rent, utilities, food, and medication. Rarely is cash part of the assistance. One option in Arizona is cash assistance. This is specifically for families with dependent children and offered through DES. You will need to apply online and then complete an eligibility interview. It can take up to 45 days for a decision to be made, so applying early is beneficial.

Parents of injured children up to 21 years of age can apply for state medical assistance. Speak to a hospital social service worker to receive information. Shriners Hospitals for Children also provide free care for children who qualify. Medical equipment loan closets provide free durable medical equipment, such as crutches, wheelchairs, and hospital beds. Locally, St. Vincent de Paul and Ability 360 are choices for these services.

Homeowners and Renters Insurance

In addition to your insurance policy, check your homeowners or renters insurance policy. These usually cover damage or loss incurred during a car accident, such as luggage or clothing. Contact your insurance agent to file a claim.

Creditor Intervention

Following the death or serious injury of a loved one, creditors will still want to be paid. Contacting them during this crisis can be difficult, so it may be smart to ask a trusted friend or relative to take on this task. There may be a clause that pays the balance owed in the event of a death or major injury. If you find this to be the case, notify the creditor as soon as possible and file a claim.

Next, make a list of all creditors, their addresses, and the amount outstanding. Assess how much money you have received from insurance and other policies, as well as any settlements that might be coming through insurance. After paying immediate expenses, determine how much you are able to pay your creditors.

Write or call each creditor to explain what has happened and how much you’ll be able to pay immediately as well as monthly moving forward. Being proactive like this and developing a payment schedule will help you manage money and maintain a good credit rating.

If your loved one has died, let the creditors know and have them change the name on accounts to the surviving spouse. If the surviving spouse did not have credit prior to the loss, they many need to establish a personal credit rating. For public utilities, ask for an extension application, if needed.

With landlords, reach out to legal aid services to be informed of your rights as a tenant.It is generally illegal for creditors to harass or intimidate debtors. If your creditors will not accept your proposed payment plan, write another letter and share a copy with your attorney.

A Final Reminder

Be careful about making significant financial decisions for a year or more following a permanent injury or death of a loved one. The emotional upheaval can leave you unable to make sound decisions until things have settled down a bit.

Get Help Now 

At the Thompson Law Firm, we have more than 10 years of experience helping clients obtain compensation for their personal injuries, including those who need financial help. When you’re ready to talk, please contact our office to arrange a free initial consultation by phone or at our Chandler office.

If you have been in a DUI car accident, contact Thompson Law Firm in Chandler, AZ to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney. We provide personal injury legal services to clients in the greater Phoenix area including ChandlerGilbertMesaScottsdale, Tempe, and Peoria.

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