Tremont Sheldon Robinson Mahoney P.C.

The "collateral source rule" in a medical malpractice case

This blog has discussed several aspects of medical malpractice cases in Connecticut. We've touched upon some of the filing requirements, and several of the aspects of informed consent in the context of pursuing damages for injuries that occur due to the negligence of health care professionals. But once a case has been tried, and a verdict has been returned for a plaintiff, what happens next?

When a plaintiff receives a favorable verdict, the jury, if there is one, generally assigns a damage amount that is to be recovered. The damages are usually divided into economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages cover the amount of money that the victim has lost or is likely to lose in the future due to the injury. Economic damages might include medical expenses the plaintiff would not have had absent the malpractice, the loss of future wages due to inability to work or other circumstances. Non-economic damages may cover other compensation for the plaintiff, such as pain and suffering or punitive awards meant to deter medical professionals from such conduct.

This does not end the inquiry, however. Connecticut General Statutes Section 52-225a requires the presiding court to apply the "collateral source rule" before entering a final damages amount. Application of this rule means that the court will reduce the amount awarded to the plaintiff by the amount that he or she had been paid by a medical insurance policy or other source that reimburses the person for his or her medical costs. The law makes an exception for life insurance payments from this rule however, and also contains an exception for policies which include a right of subrogation. Further the damages will not be reduced below the percentage of the defendant's negligence as found by the trier of fact.

The idea behind this type of law is that an injured person should not be compensated twice for the same losses. However, there may remain some gray areas as to what constitutes a collateral source in any particular case, or what policies may fall into one of the exceptions. Those with questions about recovering medical expenses or other damages for a medical malpractice injury may wish to consider consulting an attorney.

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