In Alabama, and throughout the country at large, those who suffer injuries caused by the negligent, reckless, or intentional acts of others — whether in a car accident, construction accident, or some other personal injury scenario — are entitled to sue and recover damages that compensate them for their losses. These damages include compensation for the injured party’s (i.e., the plaintiff’s) various medical expenses. Wondering if this applies to you? Speak to our Tuscaloosa accident attorney today to discuss your specific case.
Traditionally, Alabama (like most other states) applied the collateral source rule, which prevented the introduction of evidence of third-party reimbursement for medical expenses. For example, as the plaintiff, even if your $100,000 in medical expenses were covered by your health insurance, the defendant could not introduce such evidence into the case. This meant that you could recover significant damages for medical expenses that would be or had already been reimbursed by your insurer.
Since 1987, however, the state of Alabama has abolished the collateral source rule and has given juries discretion to adjust the damage award for medical expenses on the basis of insurance reimbursement. For example, if you have $100,000 in medical expenses, and $80,000 of those expenses were reimbursed by your health insurer, then the jury could take that into consideration and choose to award only $20,000 in medical expenses.
Fortunately, juries are not compelled to reduce the damages award for medical expenses simply because evidence of reimbursement has been introduced. With the aid of a skilled Tuscaloosa accident attorney, you could ostensibly convince the jury to award damages despite reimbursement.
In a personal injury lawsuit, you — the plaintiff — are entitled to recover both past and future medical expenses. Past medical expenses are more certain, in the sense that the medical services at issue have already been provided. As such, there is substantial evidence supporting the claim for damages. In order to prove your damages, for example, you can introduce your medical bills into evidence.
Future medical expenses are those which involve losses that will occur in the future, but that have yet to be sustained. If you have scheduled a surgery that will occur at a later date, for example, then you could estimate the cost of such surgery and potentially recover damages for the costs as part of your future medical expenses claim. Oftentimes, future medical expenses claims are supported by expert testimony — for example, your claims will be much stronger if you work with a medical expert who can testify as to the reasonable cost of the procedure at issue.
Defendants may dispute your medical expenses by arguing that the treatment that you have obtained in the past (or that you have planned for the future) was not reasonably necessary, or that some cheaper and more effective alternative exists. Whether a given expense is deemed “unnecessary” depends on the circumstances surrounding the treatment.
For example, if you are suffering from a rare and potentially fatal injury, and there are no safe or cheap alternatives, then using an experimental treatment may be “reasonable” given the circumstances. If you are suffering from a relatively straightforward injury — say, a leg or arm fracture — and you pay for expensive alternative treatment, then the defendant could argue that the treatment was not reasonably necessary.
If you or someone you love has been hurt in an auto accident or any other type of accident, reach out to our Tuscaloosa accident attorney today for immediate assistance. We are here to help.
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Posted By: Mark Sterling Gober