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California Bicyclist’s $3.7M Jury Verdict Survives At-Fault Driver’s Appeal

Health insurance touches many parts of our lives, including how much your doctors charge for your care, since insured people often pay less than uninsured people. One way this can affect you is if you are injured in an accident. In an important ruling issued by the California Court of Appeal, the court decided that a man was entitled to recover the full cost of his reasonable medical bills. The fact that an insured person would have incurred lower costs did not affect his right to recover because he was not insured (and therefore incurred higher actual costs), so he was entitled to receive most of the $3.752 million judgment an Orange County jury awarded him.

The victim in this case was O.B., a bicyclist who was standing next to his bike on a sidewalk when he had the misfortune of being in the vicinity of an auto accident. F.C.’s vehicle collided with a vehicle driven by Nathan Heacox, with the impact sending Heacox’s vehicle crashing into O.B. The incident caused O.B. to suffer serious injuries, including, among other things, a broken pelvis that required multiple surgeries to correct and a broken kneecap.

O.B. sued both drivers. The case went to trial, where the jury heard evidence about both the accident and the extent of the bicyclist’s damages. The jury assessed Bermudez’s damages at $3.752 million. The jury also decided that both drivers were negligent but that F.C., who had failed to monitor traffic before attempting a left turn, was the sole “substantial factor in causing harm” to the bicyclist. As a result, F.C. bore 100% of the responsibility for compensating Bermudez.

F.C. appealed, but the appeals court largely upheld the jury’s decision. One of the aspects of the jury’s decision that F.C. unsuccessfully tried to attack was the way that O.B. put on evidence of his damages. The bicyclist, who was uninsured when he was injured, testified at trial that he had nearly $450,000 of outstanding medical bills for which he was personally responsible. In addition to his medical bills, he also offered expert witnesses who told the jury about the necessity of the procedures that O.B. underwent and the reasonableness of the costs his providers charged.

The appeals court pointed out that previous appellate cases addressing the proper way for juries to determine the amount of an injured person’s damages were slightly different from the bicyclist’s situation because, unlike those other injured persons, O.B. was uninsured. Under California law, the correct analysis of damages focuses on the amount of medical costs the injured person actually incurred. The court made it clear that the fact that the amount of medical fees incurred might have been lower if O.B. had been insured (through reduced rates negotiated between insurance companies and medical providers) did not mean that he was only entitled to recover the amount that an insured person’s care would have cost. In injury law, a person causing harm must take an accident victim as she finds him. In this case, O.B. was uninsured, was not a recipient of the benefit of lowered medical rates that would have come with being insured, and was entitled to recover the full reasonable cost of the medical care he incurred.

Since some of O.B.’s medical costs were not proven to be reasonable at trial, the appeals court reduced the damages amount slightly, from $3.752 million to $3.706 million, but otherwise affirmed the trial court judgment.

If you’ve been injured by a negligent driver, whether you were in your car, on a bicycle, or a pedestrian, the diligent San Mateo bicycle accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos are here to help. Our knowledgeable attorneys have many years of experience dedicated to helping people injured in vehicle crashes navigate the legal system and pursue recovery for the damages they’ve suffered. To set up a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys, contact us at 650-345-8484 or through our website.

More Blog Posts:

California Court Affirms Two-Million Dollar Verdict for Plaintiff Injured in Auto Accident, San Mateo Injury Lawyers Blog, published May 10, 2016

San Francisco bicycle accident leaves boy injured, San Mateo Injury Lawyers Blog, published April 30, 2014

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