Sunshine Needed to Oust Phantom Lawsuit Damages
Celebrate Sunshine Week with ALEC Ideas!
Lawsuit awards are often arrived at with misleading evidence. A little sunshine can help the jury award fair recovery free of phantom damages.
Following a doctor’s visit, most people receive an invoice in the mail showing a billed rate and an often much lower negotiated rate. Insurance companies and consumers rarely pay the sticker price for medical care. This lower rate, sometimes called a “member rate” or a “plan discount rate,” is the actual amount of money changing hands in exchange for care: the price.
In a lawsuit, however, the plaintiffs’ attorney will often submit the billed rate rather than the price paid as evidence to determine economic damages. A lawsuit award meant to compensate a victim for loss often reflects much more than the actual economic loss because of this allowance. This can easily turn a $50,000 case into a $100,000 case and inflict excessive punishment on a defendant.
Instead, the jury should be made aware of the actual money paid and awards should reflect out-of-pocket costs. The ALEC Phantom Damages Elimination Act would make sure that medical economic damages include only those damages paid or reasonably expected to be paid, providing plaintiffs with a complete recovery and protecting defendants from inflated judgments.
Advocates of traditional tort reforms like caps on damages have considered phantom damages reform as an alternative way to rein in excessive lawsuit awards. Considering punitive and noneconomic damages are often set as multiples of economic damages, correcting inaccuracies in medical expenses can go a long way toward tempering lawsuit awards as a whole.