As a bicycle injury lawyer Miami, FL, I have tried personal injury and medical malpractice jury civil trials across the State of Florida for more than 22 years. And as in the recent trial of George Zimmerman, jurors are not always told only the facts of a given case in accordance with the Rules of Evidence. There are hundreds of rules and exceptions, but the basic concept boils down to the following: Is the alleged fact one that is more helpful or not for a juror to know in determining the truth, or as we lawyers are taught to argue, “Does the probative value outweigh the prejudice” of a given fact?
One of the most debated and controversial issues as a personal injury lawyer Miami, FL I see come up in most traffic accident claims in Florida involves the issue of collateral sources. A collateral source set-off is the legal concept intended to prevent injured people from obtaining double payment for the same damages, usually medical expenses from two or more different sources—for example, making and getting a verdict for medical expenses in a car accident case from both the defendant and the injury victim’s own health insurance.
I had imagined that virtually every possible combination of fact and law surrounding the concept of collateral sources had been litigated and ruled upon over the last 30 years. Recently, Florida’s 2nd District Court of Appeal faced a case of first impression, meaning an issue was presented for the very first time. A Florida man, John Joerg, a developmentally-disabled adult, sued State Farm for uninsured motorist insurance coverage after he was hit by a car driven by William Lazar and seriously injured while riding his bicycle.
He sued Lazar and settled but went to trial against State Farm for his uninsured motorist insurance benefits (which provide coverage for cyclists involved in traffic accidents) and won a verdict of $469,076, which included future medical expenses calculated at the full Medicare rates, not the lower reimbursement rates. State Farm appealed on the basis that the trial court erred in excluding evidence of the lower rates.
The issue at his bicycle accident trial was whether or not the jury could or should have considered Mr. Joerg’s future Medicare benefits in determining his future damages. In other words, are potential future Medicare benefits a collateral source that the jury should be told about. Astonishingly, until now there has been no precedent or any other Florida appellate court decision that directly and unequivocally answers this question.