A recent California Supreme Court ruling changes the amount of money that a car accident victim can claim from a lawsuit. In the past, car accident victims could sue the wrongdoer and be awarded a settlement for the total cost of the treatment and medical expenses.
The holding came out of a case that was initially filed in Southern California. A woman was hit by a meat truck and sustained severe injuries to her spine. As a result, she had to undergo expensive surgery and get treatment for her recovery. An appeals court awarded her the full amount for the hospital bills after she filed a lawsuit against the owner of the meat truck. But the dispute was whether she should be awarded the full amount or the amount that her insurance company paid.
In this woman's case, her insurer had made a deal with the hospital, paying less than a third of the actual cost of the surgery and treatment. But after the appeals court ruled that she should be awarded the full amount and not the discounted amount, the meat company appealed.
When the California Supreme Court heard the case, they ruled that the award should be the amount that the insurance company paid. There was no economic harm to the accident victim because she did not pay the full amount. But is this fair?
Should the woman still be entitled to the full amount of compensation? If an individual or entity is in the wrong, shouldn't they have to pay the full amount? Regardless of how much was actually paid to the hospital, should the responsible party be held liable for their negligence? Should this type of compensation even be connected to the victim's insurance situation?
A car accident victim suffers injuries that go beyond simply the physical injuries. Often there is emotional suffering and other financial setbacks, not to mention the impact it can have on the victim's family and friends.
Source: San Francisco Chronicle: "CA Supreme Court tort case ruling helps insurers," Bob Egelko, Aug. 19, 2011.
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