How Health Insurance Coverage Influences Recovery in a Personal Injury Lawsuit

If you’ve been injured in a motor vehicle accident (due to the negligent or wrongful acts of another), then you may be somewhat confused as to how your health insurance coverage affects your ability to recover damages for incurred medical expenses. After all, it might seem reasonable to the injured plaintiff that they be entitled to recover damages only for losses incurred out-of-pocket.  If your health insurer is paying for all your medical expenses, can you assert such damages in litigation against the defendant? Thanks to the collateral source rule: yes.  Arizona law gives injured plaintiffs the right to recover for medical expenses, even if their insurer is covering such expenses. The Collateral Source Rule In Arizona, as in many other states, the “collateral source rule” applies to a range of personal injury actions.  The rule essentially prevents the jury from being able to consider evidence relating to plaintiff’s receipt of funds from outside sources, such as insurance, so that the defendant cannot escape significant liability simply because the plaintiff had the good sense and foresight to purchase insurance coverage. In practical terms, the application of the collateral source rule means that you — the injured plaintiff — are entitled to recover damages for any and all legitimate medical expenses, even if those expenses are being covered by your insurer.  Simply put: your health insurance coverage will not negatively affect your ability to secure damages in a personal injury lawsuit.  Claim reimbursement is irrelevant. Recovering Damages for the Amount Paid […]

Arizona Law: Understanding Survival Actions

In the state of Arizona, loss-of-life claims — more specifically, wrongful death claims and survival claims — are a category of injury claims brought either by the surviving family members, or by the estate of the deceased individual.  When a person is killed due to the negligent or otherwise wrongful acts of another, then Arizona law may entitle a qualified subset of survivors to pursue an action in litigation against the defendant and recover damages. When most laypeople think of loss-of-life claims, they tend to think of “wrongful death.”  Survival actions are an important part of the legal landscape, however, and may lead to significant damage recovery. So, what’s the difference?  Let’s take a look. Survival Actions vs. Wrongful Death Actions Survival actions are fundamentally different than wrongful death actions, though these differences are often misunderstood. Stated simply, survival actions are brought against the defendant (who is responsible for causing the death at-issue) on behalf of the deceased individual.  In essence, a survival action gives the estate of the deceased an opportunity to recover damages for the wrongs committed against the deceased individual.  It arguably acts as a form of claim preservation — whatever claims the deceased would have had in the event they survived, are preserved and may be pursued by their estate. Suppose, for example, that your loved one is killed in a motor vehicle accident by a distracted driver.  Their death was not immediate, however.  After a week of attempted treatment, your loved one finally succumbed to […]

Wage Loss Damages in a Personal Injury Lawsuit

In Arizona, if you’ve been injured in an accident due to the fault of another person or entity, then you may have the right to recover a range of damages to cover your losses — generally speaking, this includes lost wages. When bringing a lawsuit against the defendant, it’s important to remember that damages may vary substantially from plaintiff-to-plaintiff.  Every case is different.  In fact, it is a fundamental principle of law that the defendant be forced to “accept the victim” as “they found them.”  Stated another way, compensatory damages are not capped based on the type of accident that occurred.  If you have significant wage loss damages, you will not be prevented from recovering such damages simply because they seem excessive in comparison to the damages suffered by the average person. Wage loss recovery is actually rather straightforward to understand.  Let’s explore the basics to get a clearer picture of how it works. Wage Loss at a Glance Wage loss damages account for actual losses suffered due to an inability to work (following an injury).  Wage loss damages are somewhat different from lost earning capacity.  For example, if your injury has not resulted in time off from work but has reduced the likelihood that you will be promoted in the future, then you’ll want to claim loss of future earning capacity damages — not wage loss damages. Wage loss damages must generally be “certain” — they can be estimated, but there must be evidence that reasonably supports the numbers.  […]

Hearsay Evidence Cannot Be Introduced in Arizona Personal Injury Litigation

Motor vehicle accidents (like many other accident scenarios) are frequently decided on the basis of evidentiary issues.  The value of effectively navigating evidentiary conflicts cannot be understated — generally speaking, skilled litigators understand the value of favorably resolving evidentiary conflicts.  Doing so will almost certainly pay dividends further downstream in the litigation process. Perhaps the most commonly encountered evidentiary issue is that of hearsay evidence admission.  In Arizona, the success of your motor vehicle accident and car accident claims can turn on the application of the hearsay evidence rule, so it’s worth considering the rule and its fundamental limitations. Let’s take a look. Arizona Law Prohibits the Admission of Hearsay Evidence According to the Arizona Rules of Evidence section 801, hearsay evidence is defined as a statement that: the declarant makes outside of the current trial or hearing, and is offered into evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted in the statement. If the declarant testifies about a prior statement and is subject to cross-examination, or if a statement is offered into evidence against an opposing party, then — assuming that certain additional requirements are met (see section 801(d)(1) and (d)(2)), the statement will not be considered “hearsay” despite having been made out-of-court. Sifting through this legalese can be rather difficult.  Simply put, a hearsay statement is any out-of-court statement that is being offered to prove the content of the statement itself. For example, suppose that the defendant is attempting to minimize their liability by claiming that another […]

Recovering Damages for Injuries You Sustain in the Workplace

In Arizona, as in other states, workplace injuries (and other injuries sustained while performing one’s workplace duties, even off-site) can lead to quite a bit of confusion.  Many workers may not realize that they not only have the right to receive workers’ compensation benefits, but that they may also have a legitimate right of action against one or more defendants. If you were delivering pizzas, for example, and you were subsequently injured in a serious car accident, then you would not only be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, but you may also have other claims worth pursuing. Workplace injuries can be particularly challenging from both an emotional and financial perspective.  Still, if you’ve suffered serious injuries, it’s critical that you consult with an attorney who can evaluate the situation and determine whether you have actionable claims — workers’ compensation benefits alone may be insufficient to account for your losses. Arizona “No Fault” Workers’ Compensation Workers’ compensation in the state of Arizona is mandatory — employers are required to pay for workers’ compensation insurance that covers their employees.  As such, if you are an employee and you are injured in a job-related incident (on-site or off-site), then you are almost certainly entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits. Importantly, Arizona workers’ compensation is a “no-fault” system.  In no-fault systems, it is irrelevant whether you contributed to your own injuries (so long as you did not intentionally cause your own injuries).  Further, it is not necessary to prove that the employer acted negligently […]

Recovering From Multiple Defendants in Arizona — The Doctrine of Several Liability

Motor vehicle accidents — like many other accident scenarios — often involve multiple defendants.  Bringing an action against a single defendant is quite a bit different than suing multiple defendants, even if the case may seem uncomplicated upon first impression. For example, if you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident where two speeding cars collided with yours (on the highway), then you would have to sue and recover from each defendant separately.  Defendants are well aware of the fact that this burden is placed on the injured plaintiff, and may attempt to minimize their liabilities by shifting the greater portion of the blame to the other defendants in the case. Arizona Implements Several Liability, Not Joint Liability In Arizona, historically, the state implemented “joint and several” liability.  Joint and several liability gave the injured plaintiff a great deal of power — the plaintiff could sue any one of the defendants who contributed to their injuries, and in turn, recover the full amount of their damages from that one defendant, even if the defendant was only minimally liable for the injuries at-issue. For example, in a case with $1 million in damages, a defendant who was only 10 percent at-fault could be held liable for the entire $1 million! Unfortunately, lawmakers came to believe that the system was unfair to defendants, and abolished “joint and several” liability, replacing it with a system of pure several liability.  If you are injured in an accident in Arizona, you will therefore be […]

Can You Recover for the Wrongful Death of a Loved One?

In Arizona, as in other states, those who have lost a loved one to an accident (that was caused by another’s negligent, reckless, or intentional acts) may be entitled to recover damages pursuant to a wrongful death claim. How Do Wrongful Death Claims Work? Wrongful death claims give a right of action to certain surviving family members of the deceased, allowing those surviving family members to recover damages to compensate them for the various losses they suffered as a result of the death at-issue.  Importantly, wrongful death claims are not intended to compensate the surviving family members for the suffering of the deceased.  Instead, they are intended to compensate the surviving family members for their own damages. These damages may include: Out-of-pocket medical expenses paid by the surviving family member Funeral expenses paid by the surviving family member Loss of companionship Loss of consortium Loss of domestic services Loss of love and affection Loss of financial support Mental distress And more Suppose, for example, that a close relative — perhaps your father — was involved in a motor vehicle accident.  The accident did not immediately result in your father’s death.  He is rushed to the hospital.  After a few days in intensive care and a difficult struggle for survival, your father dies. In the above example, you cannot recover (in a wrongful death action) damages for your father’s pain and suffering, or for their medical expenses or wage loss.  You can only recover damages for your own losses.  If your […]

Defendants are Liable for Damages, Even if the Plaintiff is Fragile

Quite often, injury victims are not in perfect health.  One injury victim may be suffering from a serious heart condition that predisposes them to blood clots, heart attacks, and other heart-related injuries during times of great stress.  Another injury victim may be suffering from a weak back that is prone to fracture injuries. Injury victims who are in particularly poor health, or who are uniquely fragile — for example, who suffer from muscle weakness or a lack of bone density — may feel that they are not in a strong position to sue the defendant who caused their injuries.  These victims mistakenly believe that their condition precludes a lawsuit.  After all, should the defendant be held liable for injuries that are unexpected? Simply put: yes.  In Arizona, and in other jurisdictions throughout the country, defendants may be held liable for any and all injuries that were caused by their negligent, reckless, or intentional actions.  It does not matter that the defendant was “unlucky” that their actions affected a fragile victim — the defendant must bear the burden. All of this is great news for injury victims, of course, and we encourage you to speak with a qualified attorney for further guidance.  For now, let’s unpack some of this terminology so that we can clarify any remaining confusion. Defendants Must Accept the Cost Burden of Their Actions No matter what jurisdiction you’re in — Arizona or California or New Mexico or Texas — the “thin skull” rule, otherwise known as the […]

Plaintiffs May Protect Irrelevant Health Records From Intrusion

If you are suing the defendant for having caused your injuries — perhaps in a car accident, for example — then you may be concerned about having all your medical records exposed to the defendant and their attorneys. You may be uncomfortable with the prospect of having private information revealed to the public at-large (if the medical records are introduced into evidence, then the details will be made available to the public).  Further, the greater access that the defendant has to your lifetime medical records, the more likely it is that they will be able to weave together a damning narrative that undermines your arguments. Suppose that you are injured in a car accident that was caused by the defendant, who was operating their vehicle in a distracted manner.  You injure your leg as a result of the accident.  During the discovery process, the defendant requests your lifetime medical records.  That request is likely overbroad, however, and you need not honor it. If the defendant were to have access to your lifetime medical records, they might notice that you have been in-and-out of hospitals many times throughout your life, and they might argue that your leg injury is exaggerated, given your “demonstrated tendency” to malinger. By preventing the disclosure of irrelevant medical records, you therefore shield your lawsuit from damaging narratives. Fortunately, the basic rules of evidence in Arizona protect injured plaintiffs against unnecessary and over-broad investigations into their lifetime medical records.  It’s important that you secure the assistance of […]

Can the Defendant Be Excused from Negligence Liability for Mental Illness?

If you’ve suffered an injury in an accident that was caused by someone who has a cognitive disability, or who is otherwise mentally incompetent, then you’re likely wondering about the likelihood of recovery should you choose to pursue litigation against the defendant.  In the state of Arizona, much like the rest of the country, personal injury lawsuits brought on the basis of negligence (i.e., that the defendant acted in such a way that they violated the standard of care for the situation) are rather complicated when it comes to those who have cognitive impairments. Negligence Liability is Based on the Objective, Reasonable Person Standard Negligence claims — in the injury context — are fundamentally based on the concept of a standard of care.  Simply put, the difference between a mistake and negligence (for which the defendant will be held liable) turns on the standard of care.  If the defendant acts in such a way that it violates the standard of care, they will be found negligent, and may therefore be sued by the injury victim for damages.  If the defendant makes a mistake, but their actions do not violate the standard of care, then you cannot hold them liable for your injuries. The standard of care in any given situation is meant to be based on an objective, “reasonable person” standard.  Essentially, the court will determine how a reasonably prudent person would have acted in the same situation as the defendant.  If the defendant’s actions fall out-of-step with this expectation, […]

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