image of the Mintz Law Firm

Mintz Law Firm

605 Parfet Street, Suite 102 Lakewood CO, 80215 | (303)462-2999

Blog of Mintz Law Firm all posts

subscribe
Good News For Plaintiffs
Posted on:Thursday, July 10, 2014

There has finally been good news for plaintiffs in the Colorado personal injury world. The public in the State of Colorado has a general prejudice against personal injury plaintiffs, and personal injury attorneys. This prejudice makes it hard for the plaintiff’s side to get any satisfaction, remedy, or fair compensation through the legal process. Only compounding the issues in this unfair fight between plaintiffs and insurance companies liable for the plaintiff’s injuries, was the massive tort reform of 2003. In 2003, Personal Injury Protection (PIP) policies which covered medical expenses for injured plaintiffs, was done away with and plaintiffs were then forced to voluntarily purchase medical coverage through their own car insurance policies. This change were not intended to be plaintiff friendly and actually puts the plaintiff in a much worse situation if they do not carry specific coverage for themselves, or have the financial means to carry health insurance. A plaintiff in this situation would be at the mercy of a medical provider, hoping that the provider will give the plaintiff proper medical care while waiting to be paid until the plaintiff reached a resolution and settlement of their personal injury case.
Another issue regarding car accident claims which frequently arises is when there is a “collateral source” involved. A collateral source is any entity which provides benefits to the plaintiff other than the at-fault party, or defendant, such as health insurance coverage carried by the plaintiff. In Colorado the collateral source rule applies to cases in two ways; a pre-verdict evidentiary rule which bars evidence of a collateral source coming into trial, and a post-verdict rule which disallows reductions of a judgment based on the benefit of a collateral source to the plaintiff. Prior to the collateral source rule, civil defense attorneys would attempt to use such benefits against a plaintiff in trial by pointing out to a jury that the plaintiff’s medical bills were paid by a health insurance carrier, and not out of the plaintiff’s pocket. Civil defense lawyers would also try to sway the jury into only awarding the amount of medical bills which was paid by the health insurance carrier, rather than the amount which was actually billed by the medical provider. Rightfully so, Colorado courts have rejected this practice of allowing the defendant’s attorneys to promote a “paid amount” over the “billed amount,” when the paid amount has been paid by a collateral source. Therefore, any evidence of a collateral source, and the benefits provided by that collateral source, are deemed inadmissible in a Colorado court of law.
However, same as all aspects of law, there was an exception to the rule. Medicaid benefits in the State of Colorado were not viewed as collateral source benefits. This meant that if a case ended up in trial and the plaintiff had Medicaid, the defendant’s lawyer would be able to present to the jury that the plaintiff’s medical bills were already paid, with tax payer’s money, and that the defendant should only be liable for the amount of bills which Medicaid actually paid. After the jury is made aware that the plaintiff is a Medicaid recipient, more prejudice kicks in and the facts surrounding the case are far less important to a jury. Luckily, in 2013 the Colorado Court of Appeals changed the game in favor of the plaintiff.
The case of Smith v. Kinningham was the one of the most beneficial cases in Colorado history from the viewpoint of a plaintiff. In this case Appellate Justice Terry provided a great opinion as to why Medicaid should, and now will be, a collateral source according to Colorado Law (2013). The basic ideas spelled out in the opinion are that a plaintiff should never be exploited, or put in adverse situation, because the plaintiff chooses to carry health insurance. Additionally, a person acting negligently should not benefit by paying a reduced amount because the plaintiff possesses health care coverage. Smith v Kinningham will hopefully level out the playing field slightly where a motor vehicle accident plaintiff, who is also a Medicaid recipient, will have one less hurdle to overcome while going through their legal battle. However, the ruling in Smith v Kinningham did not entail a total victory on the plaintiff’s side, and only applies to the pre-verdict portion of the collateral source rule and neglects to comment on the post-verdict portion. This means that a civil defense attorney could still request that any amounts awarded to the plaintiff from the jury be reduced to the amount of what Medicaid actually paid to the medical providers.
If you, or anyone you know, have been involved in a personal injury accident it is imperative you speak with an accident attorney immediately. As discussed throughout this article the defendant’s insurance company and lawyers are only out to cut costs in any way possible, which means not compensating the injured plaintiff for the damages caused by the defendant. For over 35 years the Mintz Law Firm has offered free consultations and always works on a contingency fee so the client is not out of pocket and has minimal risks. Please call us at 303-462-2999, or visit our website at www.4injury.net.

Best Wishes,
Mintz Law Firm


 
 
go

Back to Top