Here at the Charles E. Boyk Law Offices, LLC, we are often asked by clients, “What is the value of my case?”. It is not easy to give a straightforward answer to this claim, but the fact of the matter is that Ohio law makes it very difficult to put a final “value” on a case prior to an actual award from a jury or settlement offer from an insurance company. Of course, we can give estimates as to ranges but the spectrum is large and often are not of much value to individuals who are depending on a certain settlement figure in order for them to be able to have peace of mind.
The cause for some of the uncertainty is due to the 2006 Ohio Supreme Court of Robinson v. Bates case. In this case, the Ohio Supreme Court indicated that evidence of the actual medical bills may be submitted as evidence of the reasonable value of those bills, but further indicated that evidence of the amount that was actually accepted as payment in full for those bills are also admissible. What does this mean in plain English? It is best explained by way of a simple example. Say that you are involved in an accident and you are injured pretty badly. You have health insurance. Your hospital bills total $100,000. Your health insurance negotiates with the hospital and the hospital agrees to accept as payment in full $25,000 of the $100,000 bill. What is the value of the claim? Of course, the plaintiff’s attorney will argue that there were $100,000 in medical bills that the client should be due and payable $100,000 in compensation, and should further be due to additional money on top of that for pain and suffering, emotional distress, lost wages, etc. The defense lawyer, on the other hand, will argue that because $25,000 was accepted as payment in full for the $100,000 bill and the plaintiff should only be entitled to $25,000. The defense lawyer will also argue that any pain and suffering the jury awards should be “based” on the smaller $25,000 award.
The question also becomes complicated by the issue of pain and suffering. Rightfully so, many people will consider the seriousness of the injury and the pain and suffering that is involved in that injury based on a number of medical bills. For example, someone with a $100 hospital bill likely experienced much less pain and suffering than the individual who racked up a $500,000 hospital bill. Think about it. Looking at the numbers alone, we might be inclined to award the person who had $100 in medical bills $10 or $20 in pain and suffering versus the person who had injuries sufficient enough to have a half million dollar hospital bill where we might award pain and suffer damages two or three times that amount. And so the argument begins: Which number should the jury consider when weighing pain and suffering? Should they consider the fact that the plaintiff actually had $100,000 in medical bills in our first example, or should that pain and suffering award be based on the lesser $25,000 in medical bills? The question becomes even more complicated when government-sponsored health insurance is involved. For example, it is not uncommon for Medicaid to pay 10% of a hospital bill or less, which the hospital then accepts as payment in full. Should the jury in this situation even be permitted to hear the amount of money Medicaid paid? Is that even relevant? The argument can certainly be made that it has almost nothing to do with the actual damages in the case.
In any event, these “Robinson v. Bates” issues have caused personal injury litigation in the state of Ohio to become even more complicated than it was just five years ago. This demonstrates more of the reason why it is so important to obtain an experienced personal injury attorney when you are dealing with issues posed by medical bills and the like. Unfortunately, these issues often show up far down the road in the case – more towards settlement time. However, it is important to be mindful of these issues in the beginning of your case and hire an attorney right away who can address potential issues with the “Robinson numbers” before they even rear their ugly head. If you have been involved in an auto accident in Ohio, call the attorneys here at the Charles E. Boyk Law Offices, LLC today. We will be happy to provide you with a free no-obligation consultation and explain your legal rights. Give us a call today at 419-241-1395.