Paid or Incurred

Written by Andrew Traub

March 29, 2011

Governor Perry and Supreme Court of Texas Reverse 100 years of Texas law

When being involved in a personal injury case, you may receive money to pay off the medical bills for the treatment you have already received. In addition, your attorney may go further and try to win you an additional amount for those bills that may be incurred in the future in regards to the accident you were in.

Recently in Texas, it has become official that House Bill No. 3281 was vetoed by Governor Rick Perry. That bill would permit an individual in a personal injury lawsuit (other than a medical malpractice claim) to recover more money for medical expenses than actually was or will be paid. So, for someone who was billed $20,000 by a hospital, but whose insurance company negotiated the bill down to an actual amount paid of $12,000, could still submit the original $20,000 bill to the jury as if their insurance company actually paid that amount. Perry thought this would deceive the jury as to the true amount of actual medical damages. Therefore, the law now states that the plaintiff will only be able to recover medical damages in the amount charged to the insurance company after negotiation.

According to Governor Rick Perry, “our civil justice system holds a defendant accountable for economic damages caused, including medical bills. A person should not be allowed to recover, and a defendant should not be required to pay, an inflated amount of actual medical costs. If the defendant has caused damage in addition to medical expenses, those damages should be addressed and recovered under the rules of our civil justice system, rather than inflating medical bills to cover them.

The goal in a civil lawsuit is to make an injured individual whole by reimbursing the actual amount they have been deprived by the defendant’s actions. Therefore, according to the new Texas law, it should not be used to artificially inflate the recover amount by claiming economic damages that were never paid and never required to be paid.

For example, if a person’s total medical charges incurred after an automobile accident were $5,000, they may not ask for $7,000 in the claim for pain and suffering, mental aguish, or future medical expenses.

Of course, this reasoning doesn’t really work in the real world. In the real world, insurance adjusters and juries base pain and suffering awards partly on the amount of the medical bills, so not being able to ask for the full medical bills will also reduce the impression of pain and suffering.

Additionally, what about people with medicare or medicaid? It is common knowledge that government insurance pays far less than real insurance. These people will suffer more than people with standard insurance because they paid amount will be far lower than that incurred and fewer lawyers will represent them.

This decision punishes people who are injured and carry insurance and rewards people who don’t carry any insurance? How? Because people who don’t carry insurance will owe the full amount of the bill and be able to recover the full amount.

If you were involved in an accident in Texas, we’ll be happy to mail it to you (together with a host of other free stuff.) You can either email us, call us at (512) 343-2572, or fill in the form to the right.

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