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Uninsured California Driver Entitled to Recover Full Amount of Her Past Medical Bills in Injury Judgment

One of the very difficult positions in which an uninsured person can find herself is to be injured in a vehicle accident due to the negligence of another person. Although the injured person may expect to receive compensation for the harm she suffered, she lacks the up-front money to pay her medical providers. In some cases, an injured person can find relief by contracting with medical providers to receive services in exchange for a lien on the injured person’s future lawsuit damages award. In the case of one uninsured Northern California woman who worked out such an agreement, the mere fact that her doctors sold that lien to a financial company at a discount did not mean that the woman was entitled to receive only a reduced amount of damages, the Third District Court of Appeal decided, upholding a $430,000 lower court judgment in favor of the injured woman.

The accident at the foundation of the case was one in which a vehicle driven by C.M. crashed into a vehicle driven by A.U. A.U. suffered serious back injuries in the crash, including a herniated lumbar disc. That disc problem required surgery to correct. A.U., who was not covered by insurance, racked up medical bills in excess of $260,000. Unable to pay such a massive sum out-of-pocket, the injured woman struck a deal with her medical providers. In exchange for providing care to the woman, the providers agreed to accept as payment a lien on any damages award A.U. might win in a civil lawsuit. Some time later, the medical providers sold the lien to a financial services company (MF), for a discounted amount.

The injured woman did sue C.M. At trial, she presented evidence of the $261,000 in medical bills she incurred. C.M. asked the court to allow her to bring forward evidence of MF’s purchase of the lien and the amount of money MF paid for the lien. The trial court refused, and the jury eventually awarded A.U. almost $430,000, including the full $261,000 in past medical bills she’d racked up.

C.M. appealed, but the appeals court upheld the lower court’s decision in A.U.’s favor. In any personal injury case, a central consideration in determining the proper amount of past medical expenses an injured person should receive is the reasonable value of the services provided to the injured person. In A.U.’s case, she had evidence that the value of the services was $261,000, presented in the form of the bills the providers issued to her. C.M. had information she desired to use as evidence (the amount that MF paid for the lien), but she did not have any evidence that would tend to indicate that the amount MF paid for the lien represented the true value of the services the medical personnel and facilities provided to A.U.

In 2007, the appeals court issued a ruling in the case of Katiuzhinsky v. Perry, in which the court explained that the decision of a company like MF to purchase a lien like the one held by A.U.’s doctors “does not prevent a plaintiff from recovering the amounts billed by the medical provider for care and treatment, as long as the plaintiff legitimately incurs those expenses and remains liable for their payment.” In A.U.’s case, she was uninsured. She legitimately incurred the full obligation of the $261,000 bill and was fully liable for its payment. Using the MF payment amount would be erroneous because that amount was not a precise reflection of the damages that A.U. had suffered. The amount MF offered the medical providers was “a reasonable approximation of the collectability of the debt rather than a reasonable approximation of the value of” the services provided.

When a negligent driver injures you, there are lots of components that go into pursuing a fair and just recovery. The hardworking San Mateo car accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos have the skills and experience to help you. Our knowledgeable attorneys have a long track record of helping injured people navigate the legal system and receive the compensation they deserve. 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

California Court of Appeals Strikes Nonrelative Resident Exclusion Provision in Car Accident Case, San Mateo Injury Lawyers Blog, published April 13, 2016

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