Montana is unique for many reasons, including one that is beneficial to someone who has been in car accident. When the “liability is reasonably clear” that another driver caused an accident, that driver’s insurance company is legally required to advance pay lost wages and medical expenses related to the accident to the injured party. These are called Ridley payments and are made by an insurance company even before the claim has been settled.
The Montana Supreme Court ruling in Ridley v Guaranty National Insurance Company requires the at-fault person’s insurance company to pay for medical costs relating to the accident. Later, the Court’s ruling in Dubray v. Farmer’s Insurance Exchange added lost wages into these required advance payments. Also covered because of the Dubray ruling are the expenses accumulated for travel to and from doctors’ appointments. And YES, the insurer must make these payments to the injured party before a settlement has been made on a claim!
Despite these ruling, insurance companies often times try to deny payments of damages, medical bills and lost wages. Sometimes, insurance companies try to deny payments by arguing that a pre-existing medical condition, and not the accident, caused the need for medical treatment or contributed to lost work. Other times, insurance companies simply stop payments, without any medical reason to do so.
If an insurance company wrongfully denies advance payments for medical bills, property damage and/or lost wages, they may be in violation of the Montana Unfair Trade Practices Act.
Remember, the law states that when liability is reasonably clear, the injured victim is entitled to payment of all damages that are not reasonably in dispute. The payments are required even before the claim is settled between the parties.
The information presented in this blog is to inform and empower you, the consumer. If you need further guidance, please feel free to contact Bryan, diStefano & Mattingley, PLLP.
If an insurance adjuster calls to speak to you about an accident in which you were involved, take a look at the November 22nd blog post about those conversations.