There’s been a lot of questions recently about how the new Affordable Healthcare Act is going to impact personal injury actions and my clients’ claims for personal injuries. Frankly, it’s a big question mark at this point. There are several thought processes that people are considering as to how trial verdicts may be affected.
On one hand, everybody’s excited for the fact that hopefully more people will have insurance, have access to health care, and hopefully have some of the financial burden lifted of getting their health care taken care of. However, with that being said, when we take a case to trial, we’re bound under the rules of evidence; that means that we are limited as to what we can and cannot talk about in front of the jury.
As the law stands right now in Georgia, whether or not an injured person’s medical bills that we’re claiming have already been paid by insurance is never an issue that can be brought before the attention of the jury. In other words, the jury is not allowed to know if the injured person had health insurance, and thus whether the medical bills have been paid or not. If the jury did know that there was health insurance and the bills were paid, then many times the jury would not award those medical bills and would simply only leave us with a claim for potentially lost wages from the inability to work and pain and suffering. We, of course, want to get the full benefit to fully compensate our clients for all injuries incurred, including all the medical bills.
Now that the Affordable Care Act has become active, we believe most jurors are going to understand that there is a good chance that our clients have health insurance. Assuming the jurors do realize this, then many times they may discount what they would normally award injured parties, subtracting all or a portion of the medical bills that we’re asking for from the final verdict.
This hurts our clients’ claims in various ways. Primarily, if the medical bills were not actually already paid for, meaning the person did not have health insurance, then the person would be losing the benefit of getting their medical bills paid. If our client did have health insurance, however, there are various ways that we could utilize that to our clients’ benefit. However, that goes more into more complexities than can be fully discussed here.
We’re excited that the Affordable Care Act can potentially help everyone obtain better health care and easier access to health care. Unfortunately, there remains a question mark as to if this will hurt our clients’ claims in front of a jury. We’ll know more about that as we progress into 2014.
Attorney Randy Fry is an Atlanta Personal Injury Trial Attorney who exclusively handles automobile and trucking accidents, slip and fall injuries, bicycle and motorcycle incidents, workers’ compensation cases, and almost all other types of personal injury matters. Thoughts expressed are the opinion of Attorney Fry and do not constitute legal advice.