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What Are Medical Expenses in a Personal Injury Lawsuit California?

If you’ve suffered injuries in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence in California, you may be entitled to recover your medical expenses as part of a personal injury lawsuit. Medical expenses can make up a significant portion of the damages sought in many personal injury cases. Understanding what medical expenses for personal injury claims may be reimbursable can help you maximize your compensation.

Definition of Medical Expenses

Medical expenses are costs related to medical treatment you receive for accident-related injuries. They can include:

  • Emergency transportation and care (ambulance fees, ER treatment)
  • Hospital charges
  • Doctor, surgeon, specialist fees
  • Diagnostic testing (x-rays, MRIs, CT scans)
  • Physical therapy
  • Prescription medications
  • Medical equipment and supplies
  • Future care and treatment

Basically, any healthcare services and products you need to diagnose and treat your injuries are considered medical expenses in a personal injury case. Your Los Angeles personal injury attorney can help you identify and document these costs.

Proving Medical Expenses Were Necessary

In California, you can only claim medical expenses that were reasonably necessary to treat your injuries from the accident. Any treatment or procedures that are excessive, unnecessary, or unrelated to the incident will likely not be reimbursable.

To prove your medical expenses are reasonable and necessary, your Los Angeles personal injury attorney will need evidence like:

  • Medical records connecting treatment to your accident injuries
  • Doctor testimony stating care was necessary
  • Expert testimony speaking to the standard of care
  • Treatment consistent with established medical protocols

Showing the treatment was essential to diagnose and treat your injuries will strengthen your claim for medical expense damages.

Past vs. Future Medical Expenses

Medical expenses in personal injury claims are further categorized as either past medical expenses or future medical expenses.

Past medical expenses are those you have already incurred from the date of accident to the present. These are often simpler to quantify and document, using evidence like billing statements, insurance paperwork, and provider records.

Future medical expenses are projected costs you will likely incur after the claim resolves, over your lifetime if needed. These may include:

  • Ongoing doctor’s appointments
  • Physical therapy
  • Prescription medications
  • Assistive devices
  • Home healthcare
  • Surgeries and hospitalization
  • Long-term care facility

Estimating future medical expenses often requires expert testimony from healthcare providers who can speak to your prognosis and expected treatment needs. Keep excellent records of how the injury affects you long-term.

Getting Paid for Medical Expenses

In many personal injury cases, the at-fault party’s insurance company will pay medical expenses as they are incurred, within policy limits. This can help alleviate financial stress during recovery.

However, some medical providers may refuse payment until your claim resolves. In this case, your personal injury lawyer Los Angeles can help you seek reimbursement for unpaid past medical bills as part of your injury settlement or court award.

For substantial future medical costs, a portion of the settlement may be structured to provide steady payments over time. This ensures funds will be available down the road as medical needs arise.

An experienced Los Angeles personal injury attorney can negotiate effectively to get your medical expenses covered by the liable party.

Limits on Medical Expense Claims

Certain limits may apply to the amount of medical expenses you can seek through a California injury lawsuit:

  • Insurance policy limits – If the at-fault party has limited liability insurance coverage, your medical cost recovery may be restricted up to that maximum amount, which is often $15,000-$25,000.
  • Workers’ compensation – If you were injured on the job, you likely must recover medical expenses through California’s workers’ comp system versus a separate personal injury lawsuit.
  • Percentage limits – Some states cap recovery of medical expenses to a certain percentage of total damages awarded. California does not have such limits.
  • Comparative negligence – If you are partially at-fault for the accident, your medical expense damages may be reduced by your percentage of fault.

Recovering Ongoing Treatment Costs

If you require ongoing medical treatment for permanent injuries resulting from the accident, your medical bills will continue mounting over time. However, you only get one opportunity to settle your injury claim or receive a court award. How can you recover future expenses that haven’t happened yet?

A skilled Los Angeles personal injury attorney can seek a settlement that provides for ongoing reimbursement of post-settlement medical costs in different ways:

  • Lump sum earmarked for future medical care
  • Steady payments over an agreed time period
  • Lifetime payments for permanent injuries
  • Trust or special needs fund set aside for medical costs
  • Purchasing an annuity to fund future medical treatment

The settlement structure can be customized to your specific medical needs and projected expenses going forward. This ensures you receive the compensation you need for the long road of treatment ahead.

Will Health Insurance Cover Accident Medical Costs?

Many accident victims understandably want to use their health insurance to help pay for medical bills quickly after an injury. However, doing this without guidance from an attorney may jeopardize your ability to claim these expenses from the at-fault party later.

California follows the “collateral source rule,” meaning the liable party cannot benefit from your own insurance paying bills they should cover. So, your own health insurance payments don’t reduce the medical expense damages the other side owes you.

However, health insurers often have a right of subrogation allowing them to seek repayment of medical claims they paid related to an injury accident. This can create competing interests when settling your personal injury case.

An experienced Los Angeles personal injury attorney can strategically handle communications with health insurers to protect your interests. This ensures you remain eligible for benefits during treatment while also maximizing the medical damages you ultimately recover. Don’t let interactions with health insurance carriers jeopardize your right to claim medical expenses.

Consult a Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney

Suffering an accident injury can be devastating, both physically and financially. Along with pain and suffering, medical bills can create a heavy burden if they are not reimbursed through a personal injury claim or settlement. An experienced Los Angeles personal injury lawyer can evaluate your case and aggressively pursue compensation of your medical expenses and other damages against the at-fault party. Medical expense reimbursement can often make a significant difference helping you get your health and finances back on track after an unfortunate accident.

Don’t go it alone – contact Karns & Karns Personal Injury and Accident Attorneys today at 800-4THE-WIN. Consultations are always free, and we work on a contingency basis, with nothing to pay unless you win.

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