Buyer Beware!

Many consumers don’t know that their car is underinsured.  Most folks believe that the state minimum coverage is enough.  But that minimum coverage leaves most people without the coverage they need.  Some situations to be aware of:

Personal Injury Protection/Med Pay

Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and Med Pay coverages will pay your medical bills no matter what the cause of a car wreck.  PIP applies to every Kansas insurance policy and will pay at least the first $4,500.00 of your medical bills.  Med Pay does the same thing in Missouri, but most people don’t know that it’s optional.  You only have Med Pay coverage is you ask for it.  You can purchase additional PIP and Med Pay protection at relatively low cost.  Often for only a few dollars a month, you can rest assured that more of your bills and deductibles will be paid quickly if you are in a car wreck.

Uninsured/Under-insured coverage

These coverages protect you and your family if you are hit by a driver who has little or no insurance. According to insurance company reports, nearly 15% of all drivers have no car insurance.  Even if they do, they are only required to have $25,000.00 in liability coverage.  If you are seriously injured in a wreck, $25,000.00 PROVIDES NO MEANINGFUL PROTECTION – your emergency room bill alone could be more than $10,000.00.

Your uninsured motorist coverage will pay for your medical bills, lost wages and other harms and losses if you are hit by a driver with no insurance.  Under-insured motorist coverage pays if you are hit by a driver that doesn’t have enough insurance.  The higher your limit, the more you can recover if you are seriously injured.  Like PIP and Med Pay, increasing these limits is very affordable.  If we had any advice for motorists, it would be to maximize your uninsured and under-insured coverages.

Uninsured motorist coverage is required in both Kansas and Missouri.  Under-insured motorist coverage is required in Kansas, but it is optional in Missouri.  We work with many, many Missouri residents who could greatly benefit from this coverage, but have never heard of it.

Rental Coverage

It is very common for folks to buy rental coverage that is very limited in scope.  Make sure to see if you can purchase coverage that will allow you to rent a vehicle comparable to the one that you drive.  Often the amount available will only pay a fraction of the cheapest rental, for a short period of time.

The Kansas City personal injury attorneys at Smith Mohlman Leroy LLC, fight bullies.  We represent people who have been injured in car/truck/motorcycle wrecks against the corporate and insurance bullies that fight to deny these claims.  We are also happy to review your insurance policy with you at no charge to ensure you have the maximum protection available.  We have no affiliation with any insurance companies and simply make this offer as a public service.  Attorneys Mike Mohlman and Rachel Smith are not only advocates for their clients but are committed to contributing to our community.  In addition to fighting for our clients, the firm has started the Smith Mohlman Leroy Kids Foundation to stop bullying and to promote the safety of the children in our community.

SCM’s Kids Foundation First Annual Poker Tournament & Silent Auction was a Great Success!

Slide2(1)Thanks to all of our guests and sponsor donations that made this event possible.  We were able to raise over $6,000 for our SCM Kid’s Foundation and have a great time while doing it!  These donations will benefit children in our communities by providing bicycle helmets and bicycle safety education.  We also will be funding initiatives against texting while driving and bullying in our schools.  Please “LIKE” us on Facebook to get updates on SCM Kid’s. Here we will add events and the steps we are taking to keep the children in our communities safe.










© 2014 Smith Mohlman Mohl

Mohlman & Stipetich Make Missouri and Kansas Super Lawyer List 2013

The Missouri and Kansas personal injury law firm Smith Mohlman Leroy, LLC, is proud to announce the inclusion of lawyers Mike Mohlman and Michael Stipetich in this year’s 2013 Missouri and Kansas Super Lawyers list. Super Lawyers is a service that rates outstanding lawyers who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement.

Mr. Mohlman has been named to the Missouri and Kansas Super Lawyer list, and has been selected as one the top 100 lawyers in Missouri and Kansas and one of the top 50 lawyers in Kansas City.  No more than 5 percent of the lawyers in any state are selected as Super Lawyers. Selection to the Super Lawyer list is made by using a statewide survey of lawyers, an independent research evaluation of candidates, and reviews by other lawyers. Mr. Mohlman has been listed as a Super Lawyer since 2009.

Mr. Stipetich has been named a Missouri and Kansas Rising Star as a top “up-and-coming” attorney. No more than 2.5 percent of the lawyers in any state are chosen as Rising Stars, and selection to this list is made by the research team at Super Lawyers. This is the second time Mr. Stipetich has been named a Rising Star.

Mr. Mohlman primarily represents people that have suffered injuries caused by car, truck and motorcycle wrecks, a wrongful death, dangerous property, and electrical shock. Mr. Stipetich also handles personal injury cases, but his primary practice is devoted to representing workers in employment matters, including wrongful termination, discrimination/retaliation, worker’s compensation, and wage and hour litigation.

Area hospitals are being sued for not submitting bills to health insurers

A situation that is confronting an increasing number of our clients who have been injured in car wrecks and other accidents involves hospitals refusing to accept health insurance.  The reason hospitals do this is to potentially get a bigger pay day by placing a lien against any settlement the victim ultimately receives.  This article discusses some of the recent developments related to this bad behavior that is driven by corporate greed.


The Kansas City Star

Jonathon Layden was once confident that if he were ever injured, he could count on his health insurance to help pay his medical bills.

“They’re going to come after you any way they can,” said Layden, who is suing Research for not submitting the bill to his health insurer. “It’s all about the money.”

When hospitals turn down your health insurance, they are then able to avoid the discounted charges they have agreed to with health insurers. In Layden’s case, the hospital went directly to him for the full bill, but the usual practice around the country is to go after whatever money a person injured in an vehicle accident might get from an auto insurance settlement.

Here’s how the practice usually works:

• The hospital first refuses to submit your bill to your health insurer.

• It calculates your bill without the health insurer discounts and instead files a lien against whatever settlement you might receive from an auto insurer.

• The hospital gets paid from the settlement.

In Layden’s case, the hospital allegedly didn’t even file a lien and instead demanded payment directly from Layden before a car insurance settlement was in hand.

A spokeswoman for Research would not comment, citing the ongoing litigation. HCA, the owner of Research and one of the nation’s largest hospital chains, also declined to comment. The hospital in its initial legal brief in the court case denied the allegations. Practice is growing

No figures are available to show how often bills aren’t submitted to health insurance. But the practice is thought to be growing because hospitals are looking for new sources of revenue as health care reforms seek to curb costs. That hospitals are tapping auto insurance settlements is not new. In state laws dating back to the Great Depression, they got the right to place liens on injury judgments and settlements. Hospitals were struggling financially because of a growing number of patients unable to pay. The liens were seen as contributing to the public good by helping the hospitals stay open and treat patients.But critics say in recent years that the liens have morphed into a tool to help maximize hospital revenues by getting more out of patients with health insurance.Kenneth Berger, a South Carolina lawyer, said that in the last two years, it has become an epidemic in his state.

“This is something that really does add insult to injury,” he said.

In this region, Research Medical Center and St. Luke’s Hospital in the Kansas City area and SSM DePaul Health Center in Bridgeton, Mo., are facing lawsuits against the practice. The three cases seek class action status to represent other patients who may have been affected.

Kerry O’Connor, a spokeswoman for St. Luke’s Health System, said in an email response that filing liens on injury settlements is expressly authorized by a Missouri statute and that other hospitals in the state are doing it as well. O’Connor said, however, that the hospital is not “asserting” new liens pending resolution of the court case.  She added that St. Luke’s is assuming the risk of not being paid anything if there isn’t an auto insurance settlement. And it still contends it didn’t have to file health insurance for the person now suing the hospital.

Ralph Phalen, one of the attorneys representing patients in the suit against St. Luke’s, disagrees: “It’s our belief the contract (with the health insurer) requires them to accept.”  In some other states, the practice has suffered legal setbacks dating to the late 1990s. But an Illinois court ruled it was legal.

The most public rebuke to the practice occurred in Indiana. Hospitals there were either not filing insurance to collect the gross charge or filing it and then using liens against auto insurance settlements to recover the part of the bill lost to the discounts. Earlier this year, the legislature approved a bill stopping it with large bipartisan majorities, and a conservative governor signed it. The new law went into effect July 1.

Alan Smith, director of the Midwest office of R Street Institute, a think tank based in Washington, called the Indiana move praiseworthy. The state won a skirmish in the battle to make medical bills more reasonable and to help vulnerable patients, he said.

“I can’t believe they (the hospitals) thought they could get away with this.”

Insurers concerned

The practice puts patients in the middle of disputes over medical bills that they thought would be paid with health insurance.  Auto insurance settlements can indeed help pay the hospital bill in many instances, but the inflated cost without the health insurer discount can take an outsize chunk from a pot of money that is also used to cover other expenses, such as lost wages, attorney fees and replacement vehicles.  Auto insurance policies have limits on how much they will pay in a settlement. In some cases in other states, hospitals have submitted bills worth more than the settlement.  Auto insurers have a budding concern that because they don’t have the power that health insurers have to impose discounts, more of the medical costs will be shifted to them. That could end up boosting auto insurance premiums.

“It’s a significant issue,” said David Corum, vice president of the Insurance Research Council, a nonprofit group supported by such insurers as Allstate and State Farm.  Specialized companies are helping hospitals sidestep the discounts.

In its sales pitch to hospitals, Medical Reimbursements of America, based in Brentwood, Tenn., says that while accidents represent just 2 percent of claims, they can generate higher reimbursement rates than any other category.  The company contends that its AcciClaim Auto system ensures that hospitals get more when treating those injured in auto accidents, often 100 percent of the gross charges.  The company recently formed an alliance with Firstsource Solutions of Louisville, Ky., which has employees stationed in emergency rooms and admissions offices at 300 hospitals across the country. Part of their job is to identify and interview auto accident victims.  It was Medical Reimbursements of America that sent a letter to Britanie McKeever telling her that SSM DePaul Health Center in the St. Louis area would file a lien on any settlement gained from the other driver to pay her $31,000 hospital bill.  Her attorney got the bill slashed, but she was shocked that her health insurance didn’t come into play.

“I thought I had full-coverage health insurance,” she said.

SSM DePaul said in a statement that it follows all state and federal guidelines and any requirements set forth by insurance agreements. When treating a person who has been involved in a motor vehicle accident, it works with the patients to identify all sources of insurance payers.

Kansas City area cases

Layden didn’t discover that Research wouldn’t be using his health insurance until more than a month after his accident.  His initial bill actually showed the $10,896 bill dropping to $3,281 after an adjustment for the insurer’s discounts. He called the hospital asking if the bill had been sent to Blue Cross but didn’t receive an answer. Soon after, he received a $10,896 bill, the amount without the discounts.  The hospital eventually sent his account to a debt collection agency, which agreed to cut the bill in half. Faced with a falling credit rating, Layden got the loan from his parents.  The hospital ended up getting about $2,000 more by not submitting the claim to the health insurer. The physician who treated him in the emergency room submitted his bill to Blue Cross.

“It’s time for them (Research Medical) to take responsibility for their actions,” said Layden, who eventually received a $14,000 auto insurance settlement.  A spokeswoman for Blue Cross Blue Shield said hospitals it contracts with, including Research Medical, are required to submit a claim.  When the issue appeared in the Kansas City area isn’t clear, but it has been simmering for years.

“It seems to have started (in the Kansas City area) five or six years ago,” said Mitchell Burgess, a lawyer with the Kansas City firm Burgess & Lamb, who is representing patients who have filed lawsuits, including against St Luke’s.  St. Luke’s has gotten a Kansas case dismissed, but it received mixed rulings in others.

In 2009, Iretta Morgan was in a car accident and was taken to a St. Luke’s hospital. The hospital submitted an $11,452 bill to her health insurer, which paid a discounted amount. The hospital sent the check back to the insurance company and filed a lien against any settlement Morgan received.  In Jackson County Circuit Court, St. Luke’s argued that Missouri’s liens law gave it authority to use it on health insurance patients. It rejected arguments that it was unjustly enriching itself by seeking to recover the medical bill without the discounts.  The judge agreed, handing St. Luke’s a victory.

Morgan appealed her case to the Missouri Court of Appeals. It ruled the hospital didn’t have unfettered rights to use the liens to collect a higher bill. Instead, the case hinged solely on whether the hospital was required to submit the health insurance and accept the discounts that satisfied the debt.  The case was sent back to Jackson County Circuit Court to determine if the hospital’s contract with the health insurer did require a claim to be filed. It is still pending.  St. Luke’s said the appeals court merely held that the plaintiff is entitled to review the insurance contracts.

“Yes, St. Luke’s contends it was not required by contract, nor by law, to submit the claim to the insurer,” the hospital said in an email response to a question.

Aetna, the health insurer for Morgan, did not return a call seeking comment, but her attorneys say they have seen enough hospital contracts with insurers to be confident there is such a requirement.  Indiana Sen. Brent Steele, a Republican who sponsored the bill reining in the hospitals in his state, said the legal arguments may be beside the point. In Indiana, liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, and even trial lawyers and insurance companies united to stop the practice.  The medical treatment by the hospitals wasn’t questioned, but by sidestepping the health insurance they were making up their own rules. He said their attitude reminded him of a scene in the Mel Brooks movie “History of the World, Part I.”

A king was playing a game of skeet, but instead of clay discs, he ordered live peasants catapulted into the air to shoot. He turned to an adviser and said: “It’s good to be the king.”

Read more here:

Hire someone with experience

It constantly surprises me how often folks hire their acquaintances to handle serious personal injury cases. It makes sense that you want a familiar face during a difficult time. However, I find over and over again that we inherit cases because the divorce lawyer who said they would help out does not have the time or inclination to actively and aggressively pursue a case that is both outside of their comfort zone and also does not pay like their hourly cases do. Take the time to talk to a couple of attorneys about your case. Generally personal injury attorneys in Independence to Olathe, will talk to you for free because they want your business. Walk away from anyone who won’t answer your questions, tell you about their experience or who tries to pressure you into signing a contract before you leave. You will be trusting the attorney you hire with your future and you deserve to feel comfortable about that decision.

Smith Mohlman Leroy LLC Attorneys Included In This Year’s Missouri and Kansas Super Lawyers List

Missouri and Kansas personal injury law firm Smith Mohlman Leroy, LLC, is proud to announce the inclusion of lawyers Rachel Smith, Mike Mohlman and Michael Stipetich in this year’s Missouri and Kansas Super Lawyers list. Super Lawyers is a service that rates outstanding lawyers who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement.

Ms. Smith and Mr. Stipetich have been named Missouri and Kansas Rising Stars as top up-and-coming attorneys. No more than 2.5 percent of the lawyers in any state are chosen as Rising Stars, and selection to this list is made by the research team at Super Lawyers. Ms. Smith has been named a Rising Star every year since 2009. This is the first year that Mr. Stipetich has been included.

Mr. Mohlman has been named to the Missouri and Kansas Super Lawyer list as one of this year’s top attorneys in Missouri and Kansas. No more than 5 percent of the lawyers in any state are selected as Super Lawyers. Selection to the Super Lawyer list is made by using a statewide survey of lawyers, an independent research evaluation of candidates, and reviews by other lawyers. Mr. Mohlman has been listed as a Super Lawyer since 2009.

Ms. Smith and Mr. Mohlman primarily represent people that have been injured through no fault of their own. They focus their practice on serious injury cases caused by car, truck and motorcycle wrecks, wrongful death, premises liability and electrical shock. Mr. Stipetich also handles personal injury cases and other tort cases, but his primary practice is devoted to representing workers in employment matters, including wrongful termination, discrimination/retaliation, worker’s compensation, and wage and hour litigation.

Smith Mohlman Leroy, LLC Signs Lease for New Office Space

Smith Mohlman Leroy, LLC is moving to the Country Club Plaza on January 1, 2013. We have signed a lease for 5600 square feet of space on the 7th floor of the Plaza West Building at 4600 Madison, Kansas City, Missouri. We are all very excited about the new office which will provide us more space and better facilities as well as the latest in technology in order to better serve our personal injury and business clients in Kansas and Missouri. We will be providing more information as the move grows nearer. In the meantime, come see us at our current office at 7001 W 79th St., Overland Park, Kansas 66204.

Partner Rachel Smith selected as one of Missouri Weekly’s 2012 “Up and Coming Lawyers”

Smith Mohlman Leroy is proud to announce that Rachel Smith was
selected as one of the Missouri Lawyers Weekly “Up and Coming
Lawyers”. These lawyers were selected because they go above and
beyond in the legal profession for 2012. Attorneys were selected
based on their contribution to the legal profession in their
Rachel has been active in many philanthropic organizations
in Kansas City including spending eight years on the board of Big
Brothers Big Sisters, co-founding Smith Mohlman Leroy Kids
Foundation, and supporting many, many others. She is a dedicated
personal injury attorney who handles a wide range of negligence cases,
including car, truck and motorcycle wrecks. She is devoted to her
clients, and to promoting community safety. She has obtained
significant recoveries for her clients, most recently a case involving
a child on an ATV, and a museum patron who had his fingers severed by
a defective and misused door.