When you or a loved one has been injured you often end up with a number of medical bills. The amounts owed on these medical bills can be range from low to moderate to extremely high, depending on the type of injury you have suffered.
Types of Damages in Maryland Personal Injury Cases
Because the injuries you suffered were not your fault, you should not have to pay for the medical bills that you owe because of the negligent actions of another. In order to pay these bills you can seek to recover compensation for your medical expenses from the at-fault party. Past and future medical expenses are a type of economic damages that is compensable under Maryland law. Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 11-109 (LexisNexis 2015). Past and future lost earnings is another type of economic damage that you can recover in a personal injury case.
The other two categories of damages that you can recover in Maryland are non-economic damages and punitive damages. Non-economic damages includes things like pain and suffering and loss of consortium. See id. § 11-108. Punitive damages are a little different. Instead of being designed to compensate the plaintiff for the various losses they have suffered from the injury or accident, punitive damages are awarded to punish the offending party and to deter any similar behavior in the future. Smith v. Gray Concrete Pipe Co., 267 Md. 149, 159 (1972).
The Collateral Source Rule in Maryland
Maryland follows the collateral source rule. This rule is used to "permit an injured person to recover in tort the full amount of his provable damages regardless of the amount of compensation which the person has received for his injuries from sources unrelated to the tortfeasor." Motor Vehicle Admin. v. Seidel, 326 Md. 237, 253 (1992). The 'sources unrelated to the tortfeasor' typically mean insurance companies. Under this rule, even if your insurance company pays $15,000 for your hospital stay, you can still include that $15,000 as part of your economic damages. However, you may not get to keep the $15,000 due to subrogation.
Subrogation is the process by which your insurance company attempts to recover the money it paid for your care. Sometimes insurance companies will seek recovery from you directly (if you have won a judgment) or they will seek to recover their expenses directly from the other side's insurance company. For example, let's say you recover $150,000 in past and future medical expenses. Your future medical expenses amounted to $130,000 and your past medical expenses came to $20,000, which was paid by your insurance company. Because you did not actually incur that cost, your insurance company can put a lien on the judgement for $20,000 to recover the expenses they paid for your care. This is done to prevent plaintiffs from profiting from their injuries beyond the actual damages they incurred. If, on the other hand, you had paid the $20,000 in medical bills out of your own pocket, then you would be entitled to keep that amount.
Damage Caps in Maryland
There are no damage caps on economic damages or punitive damages in Maryland. However, there is a limitation to the amount you can recover for non-economic damages. For causes of action accruing on or after October 1, 2015 the cap is $815,000 for claims arising from the same act or omission. Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 11-108 (LexisNexis 2015). In a wrongful death action, the damage cap is a bit different. The law states that where there are "two or more claimants or beneficiaries, an award for noneconomic damages may not exceed 150% of the limitation established under paragraph (2) of this subsection, regardless of the number of claimants or beneficiaries who share in the award." Which as of October 1, 2015 is $1,222,500. The damage cap for a wrongful death and survival action is $2,037,500. Medical malpractice also has damage caps. As of January 1, 2015 the cap is $755,000 for all claims arising from the same injury, with the exception of wrongful death. If a wrongful death claim is filed with two or more beneficiaries then the cap is a higher, at $943,750 as of January 1, 2015.
Though it may seem complicated, the important thing to take away from this section is that you can recover past and future medical expenses in a personal injury case. If you or a loved one has been injured or in an accident due to the irresponsible or negligent behavior of another, please do not hesitate to call Gilman & Bedigian today for a free consultation.