A few weeks back, I wrote an article that discussed how insurance companies and big business are using their vast wealth to pervert the jury system and gain an unfair advantage over folks seeking fair compensation for injuries they have suffered as a result of the misconduct of others. As I was writing that article, I couldn't help but think of the many, many cases I have tried in which evidence which would have had a significant impact on the jury's ultimate decision was kept from them due to the rule of law. I have always felt that the more information we can give to jurors, the more likely they are to reach a fair decision. Unfortunately, the law determines what information members of the jury are allowed to receive and consider, and a good deal of information jurors would like to have is kept from them as a result. I can't count the number of times I have been involved in a trial in which the jury submits a written question to the judge during its deliberations, only to have the judge respond that the requested information is not something the jurors are allowed to consider. It happened to me again just last month.
Making the situation even worse is the fact that insurance companies and big business, knowing what information jurors will and will not be allowed to consider at trial, have engaged in campaigns of misinformation which fill the minds of prospective jurors with false and misleading information before they ever set foot in a courtroom. The article referred to above exposed the falsehood of the "independent" medical exam, universally performed by a doctor who earns hundreds of thousands of dollars each year working and testifying for insurance companies. Such doctors are about as far from being "independent" as one can imagine, but that doesn't stop the insurance companies from bellowing otherwise. This article will focus on another bit of insurance company misinformation: the alleged "double recovery."
One of the arguments often advanced in support of the supposed need for "tort reform" deals with cases in which the injured party has health insurance available to cover his medical expenses. According to existing laws in West Virginia and most other states, a party who has incurred medical bills is entitled to recover the amount of those bills as part of his damages at trial, regardless of whether or not he is covered by health insurance. Thus, where Joe Smith was injured in an accident and taken to the emergency room for treatment of his injuries, he is entitled to ask the jury to reimburse him the full amount of the emergency room bill, even though it may have been paid by his health insurance carrier. Insurance companies argue that allowing Joe to recover for medical bills already paid by his insurance carrier amounts to Joe essentially being paid twice for the same item of damage, resulting in the "double recovery" mentioned above. That argument is pure, 100% baloney, and the insurance industry knows it is. Nevertheless, the industry continues to belch forth such misinformation, because the end result in more money in their pockets. Allow me to explain.
Every health insurance policy I have ever seen or dealt with as a trial attorney contains a provision regarding "subrogation". In fancy legal language, the typical policy provides that in the event the insured incurs medical or related expenses as a result of someone else's negligence, the insurance company is "subrogated" to the rights of the insured against the negligent party. What does that mean in plain English? It means that if Joe Smith runs a red light and smashes into your car causing you to incur medical bills which are paid by your insurance company, YOU HAVE TO PAY THE INSURANCE COMPANY BACK if you collect anything from Smith. It works like this: Smith hits you; you go to the hospital and incur bills; the health insurance policy that you paid for pays your bills; you sue Smith and recover damages; you pay the health insurance company back everything they paid on your behalf.
Think about that for a second. Your health insurance policy is something you have paid for, either directly through premiums you pay, or indirectly through lower wages when the coverage is provided by your employer. Nevertheless, if you incur medical bills caused by someone else's negligence, you have to pay your insurance carrier back if you collect damages from the party who caused your injuries. To make matters even worse, you probably had to hire and pay for an attorney to help you collect your damages from the person who caused your injuries. Because of a recent decision from the U.S. Supreme Court, your health insurance carrier doesn't even have to share in the expense you incurred to collect your damages. YOU pay for the insurance coverage; YOU pay a lawyer to help you recover damages from the party at fault; and YOU end up reimbursing your insurance company for every penny they paid out on your behalf. No credit for the premiums you paid; no credit for your attorney fees. They sit back, send you letters every 90 days reminding you of your obligation to pay them back, and in the end, they get their money back.
In the case I referred to at the beginning of this article, the jury returned a verdict in favor of my client, but failed to award her all of her medical expenses. After the trial, we had a chance to talk with one of the jurors, and we asked her why they did what they did. Her response: "we figured she had health insurance, so we didn't want her to get paid twice for the same thing." Another victory for insurance company misinformation.
Insurance companies make billions upon billions of dollars in profit each year, and each year they try and convince the public that higher premiums and lower benefits are due to those greedy lawyers and their outrageous verdicts. It always amazes me that the people buy into these arguments. The insurance industry and big business has made an art form of convincing the public that it is in their best interest to take money out of their own pocket and hand it over to the insurance companies. We need to wake up to the reality of what is happening.
Please take the time to educate yourself regarding the insurance company propaganda. For over 30 years, the lawyers at Bordas & Bordas have fought for the rights of the common man against the insurance industry and big business. It's a fight we are committed to winning, one case at a time. Call us if we can help.
The results in a legal case depend on a variety of factors, many of which are unique to each case. Prior results by this firm or any other do not guarantee future results. Case results presented here are illustrations of the type of work done by Bordas & Bordas and not a guarantee that any prospective case will yield any particular amount.