Double Recovery in a Personal Injury Claim?
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Double Recovery in a Personal Injury Claim?

by | Aug 23, 2012 | Car Accidents

When an insured person is injured in a car accident, he or
she is often compensated by his or her insurance company. The person’s
insurance company will later seek reimbursement for the money it paid its
insured, seeking payment from the person(s) who injured its insured, this is
known as subrogation. Subrogation can be confusing, especially so when a
person’s insurance company is not successful in its attempted subrogation. A
Wisconsin Supreme Court case from the Spring of 2011 examined this issue when
an insured couple faced the unique prospect of being paid twice for their
medical expenses.

Roger and Sandra Fischer were injured in an automobile
accident, when Pamela Steffen suffered a seizure and caused a collision. After accruing
$12, 157.14 in medical expenses associated with the collision, the Fischers
were given $10,000 to reimburse them for a portion of their medical expenses by
their insurance company, American Family.

As is common, in scenarios such as this, American Family
acquired a subrogation claim meaning that American Family would have the right
to attempt to recover the $10,000 from Steffen and/or her insurer, Wilson
Mutual Insurance Co. However, when American Family attempted to recoup the
$10,000 from Wilson Mutual via arbitration they were denied recovery. Recovery
was denied to American Family because the arbitrator determined that Steffen
was not casually negligent due to the fact that her seizure was sudden and

Thereafter, American Family was effectively removed from the
legal process, as the Fischers continued a lawsuit against Steffen and Wilson
Mutual. A jury found Steffen negligent and awarded the Fischers $21,000.00 for
pain and suffering and loss of consortium and $12,157.14 for their medical
expenses. Steffan did not agree with the amount awarded for medical expenses.

Steffan petitioned the court, asking for the $12,157.14
awarded to the Fischers for medical expenses to be reduced by $10,000.00
because of the $10,000.00 already paid to the Fischers by their insurance
company, American Family. Steffan argued that the Fischers would be obtaining a
“double recovery” if she were forced to pay the full award. The Fischers argued,
among other things, that Steffan and Wilson Mutual would be getting away
without paying for the damages that she caused. The court examined the
interplay of several legal doctrines, including, the collateral source rule,
subrogation, and the made whole doctrine and decided against the Fischers, agreeing
with Steffan that in this scenario, the jury award should be reduced by

If you are injured in an automobile accident, the legal
process after the accident can almost be as confusing and frightening as the
accident itself. Contact the dedicated legal professionals at Nicolet Law Office today to help guide you forward.

Written by: Russell D. Nicolet

*please note that this is general information only and not intended to be legal advice. If you have questions or need legal advice please setup an appointment with our attorney, or an attorney of your choosing.

Russell is an attorney with Nicolet Law Office Russell represents injured clients in Hudson, New Richmond, River Falls, Prescott, Ellsworth, Roberts, Osceola, St. Croix Falls, Menomonie, Eau Claire, Chippewa Falls and surrounding areas of Wisconsin.

Nicolet Law Office has offices in Eau Claire, WI, Hudson, WI and Woodbury, MN and handles car accidents and other personal injury claims. For more information call 715-377-2141 or 715-835-5959 or visit or

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