Gavel on a stack of one hundred dollar bills Murphy, Campbell, Alliston & Quinn

Damage Control

In today’s world of medicine, costs can be all over the board. The number on a bill given to a patient can vary dramatically from the amount paid by a patient’s insurance company. Things can get even trickier if a patient enters into an agreement with a medical provider to put a lien on any legal damages the patient may collect related to their medical treatment. Evolving payment options have kept the courts on their toes about the proper method of calculating damages in personal injury cases, and have kept parties to litigation guessing about what damages a personal injury plaintiff will be permitted to recover at trial. There are three major types of tort damages in common legal usage: punitive, compensatory, and nominal. Medical damages are usually considered “compensatory,” meaning that they are awarded to a plaintiff in order to compensate for actual damage incurred or the “reasonable value” of the damage. This is different from punitive damages, which are awarded to punish or “send a message” to a defendant, or nominal damages, which are minimal money damages awarded to plaintiffs who have established a cause of action, but have not actually suffered significant injury. In the 2011 case of Howell v. Hamilton Meats & Provisions Inc., 52 Cal. 4th 541 (2011), the California…