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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 unexpected.
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 $10,000.00.
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 Accident & Injury Lawyers today to help guide you forward.
*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 Accident & Injury Lawyers. 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 Accident & Injury Lawyers has offices in Eau Claire, WI, Hudson, WI and Woodbury, MN and handles car accidents and other personal injury claims. For more information call 1-855-NICOLET or visit www.nicoletlaw.com.