Florida’s Interpretation of the Collateral Source Rule Focuses on Defendants’ Responsibilities

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If someone steals $100 from you, does it matter whether your bank account balance is $20 or if it is in the tens of thousands? In terms of the amount of emotional distress you suffered because of losing the money, it does, but in terms of how much financial damage the defendant caused you, the amount is the same. 

Likewise, if someone causes a car accident that causes you injuries requiring hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical treatment, the cost of that treatment should be the defendant’s responsibility regardless of your financial situation before the accident. How the court deals with the issue of the plaintiff having other means of covering the accident-related losses is called the collateral source rule, and the states vary in their interpretation of it. If you have been injured in a car accident and are wondering how your pre-accident financial situation might affect a lawsuit that you file, contact a Pensacola car accident lawyer.

Basics of the Collateral Source Rule

In a personal injury lawsuit, the plaintiff lists financial losses he suffered because of the defendant’s negligence, including past and future medical expenses and past and future lost income. The collateral source rule says that information about ways that the plaintiff could cover those losses other than by receiving compensation from the defendant is not admissible in court. The reasoning is that the lawsuit is about the defendant’s responsibilities, not about how much money the plaintiff has left after the accident-related losses.

Of course, things are not always that simple; sometimes, information about the plaintiff’s means of paying for medical treatment, especially through health insurance, is relevant. Specifically, insurance write-offs can affect the amount the plaintiff was charged for treatment. Sometimes, the only way the plaintiff can persuasively argue that she incurred a certain amount of losses because of medical treatment is to present her medical bills, which show insurance adjustments and write-offs

How the Collateral Source Rule Works in Florida

In general, Florida still applies the rule that the plaintiff’s insurance coverage or lack thereof is irrelevant to a personal injury case; it has fewer exceptions to the collateral source rule than many other states do. Florida case law has clarified those exceptions through Supreme Court decisions like Joerg v. State Farm, in which the court ruled that the plaintiff’s Medicare-covered treatments should not count toward the number of damages he received for past and future medical treatment. 

In some cases where plaintiffs have sued for and won damages, including the pre-insurance coverage cost of their treatment, courts have required them to reimburse the insurance company for the portion of the settlement for which the insurance had previously paid.

Contact Stevenson Klotz About Car Accident Cases

The bottom line is that, even with the collateral source rule, you are still entitled to compensation for your losses related to accidental injuries. Contact Stevenson Klotz in Pensacola, Florida, to discuss your case and to see whether you have grounds for a lawsuit.

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