If you have been injured in a car accident, you will likely find yourself
paying for all manner of accident-related expenses before you have received
any compensation from the at-fault insurance company. It is essential
that if you are incurring expenses as a result of the accident that you
seek fair and reasonable compensation. Determining what is fair and reasonable
for your injury claim involves exploring each aspect of your physical
and financial damages. One of the most commonly overlooked areas of damages
by accident victims is reimbursement of “out-of-pocket” expenses.
What are Out-of-Pocket Expenses?
In many ways, out-of-pocket expenses are really a catch-all category used
to define a variety of costs related to your accident and injuries. These
expenses, while reasonable and necessary, aren’t considered medical
expenses. Medical expenses are typically defined as the costs associated
with seeking and receiving medical treatment from a physician or medical doctor.
An out-of-pocket expense is a case related expense arising from the injuries
you sustained after your accident. These expenses can range from just
a few dollars to thousands of dollars and will more often than not put
an unnecessary strain on your already strained pocket book. In order to
claim compensation for these costs, you should carefully track all money
expended as well as save receipts.
In order to seek reimbursement for your out-of-pocket expenses, it is necessary
to understand what expenses may be recoverable from the at-fault driver
or their insurance company. It is important to note that not all expenses
related to or arising from an accident victim’s medical treatment
will be reimbursed. Insurance companies commonly evaluate whether the
item or equipment purchased is reasonable or necessary, considering the
injuries sustained. For example, if you were involved in a fender bender
resulting in only minor neck pain, the insurance company will be unlikely
to reimburse you for the cost of purchasing a set of crutches.
Types of Out-of-Pocket Expenses
Expenses Arising from Medical Treatment: These out-of-pocket expenses are typically associated with purchasing
items or medical equipment that an accident victim would need to buy in
order to survive, function, or heal appropriately. These out-of-pocket
expenses typically include, but are not limited to:
- Prescription medications
- Over-the-counter medications
- Medical equipment (crutches, slings, wheelchairs, respirators, etc.)
- Cost of hotel stays when your medical treatments require you to stay overnight
Transportation Costs: On the other hand, incidental out-of-pocket expenses are those costs that
arise out of seeking medical treatment. These expenses are related to
your case but are not a major part of your medical treatment plan or recovery.
Incidental expenses will be related to the cost of travel to and from
doctor’s visits, and may include, but are not limited to:
Rental car expenses (often part of your
property damage claim)
Mileage reimbursement, set by the
- Parking fees and expenses
Cost of transportation services (if you are unable to drive)
- Bus fares
- Taxi fares
- Cost of using driver service (Uber, Lyft, etc.)
The above-enumerated items are by no means every eligible reimbursable
out-of-pocket expense; however, they do provide a brief overview of the
type of out-of-pocket expenses you may be able to include in your personal
injury claim for damages.
Is the At-Fault Party Responsible for Reimbursing Out-of-Pocket Expenses?
North Carolina law may allow you to recover all out-of-pocket expenses
associated with your personal injury from the at-fault party or the responsible
insurance company as long as those expenses were both (1) reasonable and
The reasonableness of an out-of-pocket expense may appear to be subjective.
If you are presenting these costs as part of your personal injury claim,
be sure to gather and keep proper documentation that supports the cost
of the item or equipment purchased. However, if the insurance adjuster
or company argues that a particular expense is unreasonable, request that
they provide you with an explanation of their position. Additionally,
if an insurance adjuster is arguing that the cost of a particular item
is unreasonable, consider contacting several other stores or suppliers
of that same item and request a quote or gather evidence showing their
prices. Using this cost comparison technique, you will be able to show
that you paid a reasonably similar price for the same or similar item.