Exceeding Your Expectations


On August 18, 2011, the California Supreme Court’s decision in Howell v. Hamilton Meats (2011) 52 Cal.4th 541, drastically reduced the amount an injured person may claim as past medical expense damages in a personal injury lawsuit. 

When a tortiously injured person receives medical care for his or her injuries, the provider of that care often accepts as full payment, pursuant to a preexisting contract with the injured person's health insurer, an amount less than that stated in the provider's bill. Prior to the Court’s decision in Howell v. Hamilton Meats, the tortuously injured person could claim the higher dollar amount stated in the providers bill as economic damages for past medical expenses.  In other words, the injured party could claim as damages the billed amount for the medical services rather than the lessor paid amount. The difference between the amount the medical provider bills, and the amount and the insurer pays, is nearly 50%.  

Unfortunately, however, the California Supreme Court reversed course in Howell v. Hamilton Meat, and held that an injured person may not recover from the tortfeasor, as economic damages for past medical expenses, the undiscounted sum stated in the provider's bill but never paid by or on behalf of the injured person.  The California Supreme Court reasoned no such recovery is allowed because the injured person did not suffer any economic loss in that amount. Because those amounts do not represent an economic loss for the injured person, they are not recoverable in the first instance.

In reaching this highly controversial decision, the California Supreme Court significantly decreased the amount economic damages for past medical expenses an injured person is entitled to recover in a personal injury lawsuit.

If you suffered an injury as a result of another person’s negligent, careless, reckless and/or intentional conduct, contact the JCL Law Firm for immediate legal consultation at 1-888-498-6999. 


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