When you file a personal injury lawsuit, you are paid for damages that you have suffered in the past and present.Many plaintiffs do not realize that the damages award also covers harm that they will suffer in the future.
This includes economic damages such as lost wages and future medical expenses. When you file an Illinois personal injury lawsuit and do not request future medical costs, you are leaving money on the table.
While you may not want to think about the future when you have suffered serious injuries now and trying to recover the money that you need to make yourself whole after the accident, you must think ahead and plan how you will show the court that you are entitled to damages later in time. This is even more important when you have suffered catastrophic injury.
In order to qualify for coming medical expenses, you will need to prove them to the satisfaction of the jury. Future medical expenses will be somewhat different than past expenses in terms of the proof that you need.
When it comes to past medical expenses, the issue is pretty cut-and-dry. You have the actual medical bills that the responsible party must reimburse. Then, your health insurance will be entitled to recover what they have already paid out in claims, and the law entitles insurers to compensation.
The Challenges of Proving Your Medical Costs
Future medical costs are more difficult to prove for accident victims. First, you will need to establish that you are injured badly enough to warrant payment for these expenses. This is just the first phase, and there are several more showings after that.
Then, your personal injury attorney will have to demonstrate the proper course of care for your given injuries. The two sides will likely disagree as to the extent of the medical care that you need.
After that, you will need to establish the cost of your medical treatment. This is where your claim really can get tricky, especially if you are talking about care that will happen decades in the future. Nobody really knows what medical care will cost in the future as cost increases are from year-to-year and expenses rise at a different pace than the general inflation rate. You may not even know what the insurance company will cover.
How Your Personal Injury Claim Is Affected By Future Medical Needs
There are even more uncertainties when it comes to your condition in the coming years. Just because you have suffered certain injuries now does not mean that your health will remain constant in the future. For example, you could have suffered a leg injury in an auto accident.
This may result in needing a knee replacement in the future, but it is not certain now that it will happen. You could need complicated disc or neck surgery as a result of your accident injuries, but it is not apparent now.
What is certain is that your personal injury lawsuit will be your only chance to get reimbursed for the costs that you may face in subsequent years. If you do not ask for it now, you will never receive it as you cannot file a second lawsuit or ask for an increased settlement because you underestimated the costs of your care. This is why you need to case a wide net when asking for reimbursement for costs that you may incur later on.
When it comes to proving future medical expenses, you do not need to show beyond a shadow of a doubt that you will have to pay those costs. You are not held to the same standard as in a criminal trial. However, the standard in Illinois is still pretty high. Some states only require you to show a “reasonable probability” that you will incur these costs in the future. In Illinois, the standard is a “reasonable certainty.”
The “reasonable certainty” standard for future medical expenses in Illinois dates back more than a century. For example, in the case of Lisenbury v. St. Louis and Springfield Railway Co., an Appellate Court in Illinois stated:
“A mere possibility, or even a reasonable probability, that future pain or suffering may be caused by an injury, or that some disability may result therefrom, is not sufficient to warrant an assessment of damages. It would be plainly unjust to require a defendant to pay damages for results that may or may not ensue and that are merely problematical. To justify a recovery for future damages the law requires proof of a reasonable certainty that they will be endured in the future.” 184 Ill. App. 395
In other words, you cannot speculate. Nonetheless, future medical expenses are within the realm of possibility in your civil lawsuit.
What You Need to Do As Part of Your Civil Lawsuit Under IL Law
With that in mind, this is what you would likely need in order to show that you are entitled to future medical costs:
- Medical records and expert testimony that can establish the extent of your injury and your need for medical care
- Testimony that will detail exactly what your medical needs are now for treatment of injuries and how they may change in the future
- Evidence of the proper course of care for your condition
- Economic testimony to show the present value of your injury costs and how inflation may impact the cost of your care in the future.
The Allowable Elements of a Claim for Future Medical Bills
Once you have established your entitlement to future medical costs as an injured party, you may be able to recover the following as part of your claim:
- Any type of home medical care or nursing
- The cost of future surgeries as a result of the injuries
- Co-pays for healthcare provider visits and prescription medications to treat the injury
- Reasonable and necessary health care expenses that you will incur in treating injuries.
- physical therapy costs
- any other special damages, such as the cost for a family member to provide you with care
As you can see, this is one of the more complicated areas of a personal injury trial. You will need to come to the court with the necessary details now as opposed to filling them in later in time.
Your lawyer will need to work with medical experts to establish your injuries and what your needs are in the future. You should expect that the defendant and their attorneys will have a very different view than you of your needs for medical care and what it will cost. This is why you need an attorney for your civil lawsuit after your accident.