California residents may soon see more compensation in personal injury cases. The California Supreme Court this month agreed to take up a case that could result in the guilty driver owing an accident victim the full price of her medical care, rather than a lower negotiated rate that was actually paid to the hospital.
A Hamilton Meats & Provisions truck driver made an illegal U-turn and hit Rebecca Howells car. Howells spinal fusion surgery and other treatments cost her insurance company $60,000, but the full hospital rate for the procedures was $190,000.
In exchange for high-volume business, insurance companies get a 60 percent discount on average for hospital costs, according to the Johns Hopkins Center for Hospital Finance and Management. In California, a personal injury defendant is only owed the discounted payment rate rather than the full cost of treatment.
The trial judge in Howells case ruled she was only due $60,000 from Hamilton Meats and the companys insurance company. However, the Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed the ruling. It said the company and its insurer owed the full $190,000 cost of the procedures. The court said Howell earned the insurance discount through her foresight and her responsible decision to carry health insurance. In a unanimous ruling, the justices said Hamilton Meats did not earn the same discount.
Hamilton hopes to reverse the ruling once again. They argue the appellate court bucked long-established judicial precedent by ordering a payment greater than the discounted hospital rate.
A state Supreme Court ruling could set a new precedent and could be worth millions of dollars for plaintiffs in personal injury cases.
To learn more about how this case could affect you or if you have suffered an injury, please speak to a personal injury attorney in your area. A lawyer can explain your legal rights and help you decide on your best course of action.
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