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Plaintiff’s Award Initially Reduced Due to Insurance Coverage but Restored on Appeal

In a recent case, the plaintiff brought a personal injury claim against another driver and his company after he was injured in a car accident. The case proceeded to trial, and a jury found in favor of the plaintiff. The jury awarded him $84,283 in economic damages and $40,000 in noneconomic damages.

The defendants argued the award should be reduced, since the plaintiff paid only $1,941 toward his medical expenses, and his insurance had paid the rest. Initially, the trial court agreed and reduced the award to $24,299. It took the original economic damages award and reduced it by the cost to secure the collateral source benefits of approximately $58,000, resulting in the award of $24,299.

However, the state’s supreme court reversed the case on appeal and held the plaintiff’s award should not have been reduced. The court explained that normally, a state statute allowed an award to be reduced if the expenses were paid by another source. But the court further explained that this rule did not apply if the other payer was entitled to reimbursement from the plaintiff. Since in this case, the insurance company had a right to be reimbursed, even if only for a portion of the amount, the award should not have been reduced.

Damages in Illinois

In Illinois, the main goal of a damages award is to compensate a plaintiff for his or her injuries, rather than to punish the defendant. Compensatory damages are given to a plaintiff to compensate for losses or injuries. These damages include both general and special damages. General damages are those that are presumed to have resulted from the wrongful act. Special damages are those that are not implied but can be pleaded and proved by a plaintiff. Non-compensatory damages may also be awarded in some cases. These damages are not meant to compensate the plaintiff. For example, punitive damages may be awarded in some cases in order to punish the defendant and deter others from committing similar acts in the future.

In a personal injury claim, generally a plaintiff has to establish damages by proving the nature and extent of the injuries, the expected duration of the injuries, how the injuries may have aggravated a pre-existing condition, disfigurement, disability, pain and suffering, emotional distress, necessary medical expenses, lost wages, caretaking expenses, and any shortened life expectancy.

A damages award may be reduced in some circumstances. For example, an award may be reduced if a court finds the award was excessive—if the award fell “outside the range of fair and reasonable compensation,” resulted “from passion or prejudice,” or was so great that it “shocked the judicial conscience.” It can also be reduced according to the collateral source rule.

Collateral Source Rule

In Illinois, the collateral source rule provides that a plaintiff’s damages cannot be decreased by an amount paid by another source. The rule allows a plaintiff to recover fully without being subject to a reduction. The idea is that a wrongful actor should not be relieved from paying an award just because the plaintiff was lucky enough to receive money from another source. However, there are some exceptions to the rule, particularly in medical malpractice claims.

Contact a Personal Injury Attorney

If you believe you may have a claim, talk to a car accident attorney as soon as possible. At Moll Law Group, we are committed to vigorously representing injured victims against some of the most powerful corporations in the world. Our Chicago attorneys represent individuals who have been injured or lost loved ones. Many of these injuries are results of defective devices, dangerous drugs, medical malpractice, or careless drivers. Whatever the case may be, call us at 312-462-1700 or contact us via our online form to set up a free consultation.

See More Posts:

Court Applies Government Immunity in Pedestrian Accident Case, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, January 13, 2017.

Trolley Accident in Philadelphia Injures Nearly 50, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, January 30, 2017.

Court Reinstates Case After Attorney Admits Fault in Failing to Pay Court Fees, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, December 14, 2016.

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