The Colorado Supreme Court recently issued a new opinion which clarifies the recovery of medical expenses in personal injury cases in Colorado. The ruling is very significant, especially in light of the various defense organizations which have submitted “friend of the court” briefs for consideration.
The Supreme Court ruled that an injured Plaintiff is entitled to recover the total amount of charges from health care providers and not the amounts actually paid by the injured Plaintiff’s health insurance company. As anyone with health insurance and who has received medical treatment knows, the amounts charged by medical practioners is significantly more than the amounts actually reimbursed by the health insurance company. This billing practice is due to the contact between the health insurance company and the medical providers found on the provider list. For years, lawyers for plaintiffs and defendants have argued about the amount recoverable in a personal injury case. This new opinion from the Supreme Court clarifies that the defendant who causes injury to the plaintiff should not benefit from the fact that the injured plaintiff had the foresight to obtain health insurance on his or her own behalf. If anyone is to benefit from the existence of the health insurance contract and the discounted payments to medical providers, it should be the injured plaintiff. As a result of this new opinion, the total amount of medical bills is to be submitted to the jury for consideration of an award and not the actual amounts paid to the providers by virtue of this contractual discount.
The new case is Volunteers of America v. Gardenswartz, 242 P.3d 1080 (2010), decided November 15, 2010.