How Ohio Court Decisions Can Reduce The Value Of A Personal Injury Case

by Dean Pavick on March 1, 2014

Ohio courts in recent years have continued to hand down decisions which have the practical effect of limiting the amount of monetary recovery in many types of personal injury cases for injured people. For example, the Ohio Supreme Court has handed down at least three decisions which allow defendants and their insurance companies to introduce at trial, with little burden, the amount of write-offs for medical and hospital bills accepted by healthcare providers in treating plaintiffs in their personal injury cases. Thus, if an injured person incurs $50,000 in bills for treatments but the health insurance carrier only pays the healthcare providers $15,000 for treatments under artificially created fee schedule guidelines, the defendant can introduce evidence of $35,000 in write-offs to establish the reasonable cost of treatments. Accordingly, if a jury only considers $15,000 for treatment costs(rather than $50,000) the jury is starting with a lower “base” in adding on damages for pain & suffering etc. This cannot only affect the amount awarded for damages by the jury but can also affect the value of a personal injury case during settlement negotiations with the defendant’s insurance company. The amount of payments by health insurance carriers use to be excluded at trial by the collateral source rule. Under the collateral source rule, the defendant was not to benefit by the fact that the injured plaintiff had a third party source of payment for treatments.

Under the more recent court decisions the “windfall” is given to defendants and their insurance companies rather than to injured plaintiffs.

While catastrophic or severe permanent injuries continue to usually result in large jury awards and settlements in Ohio, lesser injuries often classified as “soft tissue injuries” by insurance companies(the vast majority of injuries in personal injury and auto accident cases) are most affected by these court decisions.

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