In my previous post, I discussed the Ridley decision of the Montana Supreme Court. This is the case that requires insurance companies to pay for an injured party’s medical expenses where liability is “reasonably clear” and the medical expenses are “causally related” to the accident.
As anyone who has been hurt in an accident knows, the biggest financial stress any injured person can face is the inability to work. Four years after Ridley, the Court clarified that Montana law treats this kind of harm exactly the same way as medical expenses.
In Dubray v. Farmers Insurance Exchange, the Montana Supreme Court ruled that insurance companies are required to make payments for lost wages of injured people where liability is reasonably clear and the lost wages are caused by the accident:
The essence of our holding in Ridley is that where liability is reasonably clear, injured victims are entitled to payment of those damages which are not reasonably in dispute without first executing a settlement agreement and final release … medical expenses are just one of the obligations incurred by victims that mandatory liability insurance laws were designed to alleviate. Lost wages which are reasonably certain and directly related to an insured’s negligence or wrongful act are another example.
Dubray requires insurance companies to advance not only medical expenses but lost wages too. Even more, Dubray left open-ended other kinds of harms and losses an insurance company is required to pay before final settlement.
The Flathead Valley is a big geographical region. It could be that an injured person lives thirty or more miles from their medical providers. Well, Dubray requires the insurance company to pay for the gas to and from medical appointments. Maybe the injured person was able to walk outside during the winter for exercise and now, because of his injuries cannot, while his medical providers are telling him that exercise is even more important. Dubray requires insurance to pay for a treadmill or gym membership. Etc.
Montana law affords a lot of great protections for injured people, and as my experience with an insurance adjuster as a first-year lawyer demonstrated, these protections are pretty unique to Montana. Unfortunately, insurance companies’ responses to Montana law are as varied as the day is long. There’s no predicting how a situation is going to shake out.
What I can tell you, though, is that if you are an injured Montanan experiencing financial strains because of an accident, Montana law is on your side and it’s worth talking to an attorney to find out if the insurance company you’re working with isn’t telling you the whole story.