Awards Lower in Ohio Personal Injury Auto Accidents

by michael on February 21, 2011

Let’s say you were involved in a medium impact rear-end automobile accident in Akron Ohio. There was minor visible damage to your car. You suffered a neck sprain and low back strain and had no prior neck or low back problems.You were treated at the emergency room with x-rays taken, treated by your family doctor, underwent physical therapy, took prescribed medications and missed several days from work.You fully recovered from your injuries four months after the accident. Your medical bills totalled $4500 and your health insurance carrier paid the healthcare providers $2500 which was accepted as full payment. Your lost wages were $300.The defendant’s automobile insurance carrier accepts liability but only makes a settlement offer on your personal injury case in the amount of $3500.What’s going on?

Although your claimed out-of-pocket medical expenses amounted to $4500, your health insurance company used a fee schedule to make “adjustments” to these bills resulting in reduced payments to your healthcare providers.When the healthcare providers accept these reduced payments, they “write-off” the difference billed and the amount accepted.Until recently, payment of medical bills by private health insurance companies, Medicare, Medicaid or some other payor, were barred from being introduced to a jury at trial under the collateral source rule. Therefore, in settlement negotiations with the insurance adjuster the actual amounts billed by the healthcare providers (out-of-pocket medical expenses)were generally used in evaluating damages rather than the reduced accepted amounts.

However, the Ohio Supreme Court held in Robinson v.Bates (2006) and Jaques v.Manton (2010) that these write-offs are are not a benefit under the collateral source rule and that both the original medical bills and the reduced amounts accepted as full payment are admissible in court to prove the reasonableness and necessity of charges rendered for medical/hospital care.(talk about confusing the poor jury). In your personal injury case, the insurance adjuster probably figured that the reasonable value of medical services was the accepted reduced amount of $2500 rather than $4500.Thus, the automobile liability insurance carrier probably used these  Ohio Supreme Court cases to  try and lower the settlement value of your case. Is this fair? Not from a plaintiff’s standpoint.The insurance company is in business to make profits,profits,profits– not to fairly compensate you for your injuries and damages.Out of your settlement, your health insurance company must still be reimbursed for the amount of related medical treatment payments under its subrogation provision. Perhaps you begin thinking that it might have been better to have slipped and fallen in your bathtub rather than have been hurt due to someone else’s negligence.

There are also much larger trends across the nation and in Ohio which reveal lower awards in automobile personal injury cases. In 2007, CNN came out with an investigative study entitled “Auto Insurers Play Hardball in Minor-Crash Claims”. CNN discovered that in those accidents in which there is little property damage to the vehicle and the injuries are not easy to see by the naked eye (ie.strains/sprains) most of the major automobile liability insurance companies, led by Allstate and State Farm, have adopted a take-it-or-leave-it strategy by making lowball settlement offers often daring the injured plaintiff to file a lawsuit and try his/her case to a jury, which is both time consuming and expensive. The 2005 Ohio Verdict Survey published by Jury Verdict Research reveals that the injury award median for neck and back strains for vehicular liability claims from Ohio was only $5000. The national median for overall cervical/lumbar strains resulting from vehicular liability cases was $7000.These statistics were published prior to theRobinson and Jaques cases permitting the actual payments to healthcare providers and accepted write-offs to be introduced as relevant evidence to a jury.

The overall trend in settlement offers and jury verdicts in soft tissue personal injury auto accidents have  been lower in Ohio. However, you should not be intimidated by the liability insurance companies. An experienced Ohio personal injury attorney can fully explain your legal rights, evaluate the liability and damages issues, and make sure that your personal injury case is fully developed to obtain the best monetary award for you.

 

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