In the state of Florida, when you sustain a personal injury because another person was negligent, you entitled by Florida law to full compensation for your injury-related medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages. However, you’ll have to prove that you are entitled to that compensation, which means that you’ll need to work with a personal injury attorney and file a personal injury lawsuit. Under the law in Florida, negligence is defined as a failure to act with the care that a reasonably sensible person would use under the same or similar circumstances – a failure that results in personal injury.
Anyone who has been accidentally injured by negligence and who has filed an insurance claim or an injury lawsuit has probably heard of “subrogation.” The dictionary definition of subrogation is “the substitution of one person or group by another in respect of a debt or insurance claim, accompanied by the transfer of any associated rights and duties.” In personal injury law, subrogation is the legal principle that lets one party (let’s say your auto insurance company) pay what is in fact owed by a different party (the other driver’s auto insurer, for example) and then be reimbursed after the fact by the party that actually owes the debt.
Here in Central Florida, if you are injured by someone else’s negligence, it is important to work with an Orlando personal injury lawyer who has experience with the legal questions that are raised by subrogation issues. A good personal injury attorney can help you understand the impact of subrogation claims on personal injury lawsuits, an insurer’s third-party lawsuit, and any benefits, awards, or settlements you may receive.
WHAT IS A COLLATERAL SOURCE?
When subrogation comes into play, the paying-but-not-negligent party is called a “collateral source.” A collateral source – which is typically an insurance provider but may in some cases be a government agency – ensures that compensation is paid to the accident victim who is making the personal injury claim. Central to the concept of subrogation, however, is the legal principle that an injury victim should not receive a “double recovery” but should instead be paid properly – and only once – for the damages actually suffered.
Here’s an example: Let’s suppose that you are injured by slipping and falling on a wet floor in a supermarket, and your healthcare insurance company pays $10,000 to your healthcare provider to cover your medical treatment. In this instance, your healthcare insurer has functioned as a collateral source, and the company has a legal subrogation right to be reimbursed for the $10,000 by the supermarket’s liability insurance company.
When you’ve been injured and your own insurance company pays for your medical expenses, the company may ask you some questions or even investigate the way you were injured to determine if and how their payment to you can be recovered. The company may ask you if you’ve spoken with an attorney or if you are considering a personal injury lawsuit. Insurance companies, however, are not the only parties with legal subrogation rights.
WHAT OTHER ENTITIES HAVE SUBROGATION RIGHTS?
Most injury- or disability-based state and federal government benefit programs mandate reimbursement from the person or persons responsible for the original injury to the benefit recipient. Workers’ compensation, Medicare, the Veterans Administration, and most state assistance programs usually have legal subrogation rights and routinely pursue subrogation claims.
Subrogation seems fair and simple enough, but subrogation matters can become legally quite complicated, particularly when a personal injury lawsuit against a third party is settled out of court. The injury victim or the collateral source provider may settle part or all of their claims. However, such settlements may impact an injury victim’s right to receive continuing benefits or a collateral source’s obligation to continue paying benefits. In most of these cases, the non-settling party must be adequately notified of any impending settlement.
Here’s another example: Let’s suppose that you are injured at work because the safety equipment you were using was defective. You begin receiving workers’ compensation benefits, but you also file a third-party product liability lawsuit against the safety equipment manufacturer, who chooses to settle quickly to avoid publicity. Any portion of a settlement or a jury award that covers losses already paid by workers’ compensation will have to be refunded to the employer asserting a subrogation right.
In the state of Florida, subrogation in some cases can become intricately complicated. If you are injured by negligence in central Florida – or if you are already receiving benefits from a source other than the party that injured you – arrange to speak with an Orlando personal injury lawyer who routinely handles cases where subrogation issues emerge. If you are receiving compensation from a collateral source, your attorney can help you to understand the subrogation issues and the impact they may have on a personal injury lawsuit.
WHAT ONE FACT DOES EVERY DRIVER NEED TO UNDERSTAND?
One point about subrogation is critical for every driver to understand. If you are injured by another driver’s negligence in a traffic accident, do not sign or agree to any settlement with the other driver’s insurance company without having the counsel of an experienced injury attorney. Some companies will try to have you sign a settlement that includes a waiver of subrogation clause to prevent your insurance company from asserting its subrogation rights. If you waive subrogation, your insurer may deny your claim because it will be unable to obtain reimbursement.
In some cases, an injury victim may simply be notified that his or her insurance company is pursuing subrogation and then hear little about it afterward. However, injury victims should know that if their insurance company tries to recover costs, they must try to recover the cost of your deductible and refund it to you if they succeed. Many insurance policies actually compel policyholders to cooperate with the company’s pursuit of its subrogation rights should the issue emerge.
Every state is different regarding precisely how and when collateral sources may assert their subrogation rights and how those rights can impact third party lawsuits. If you have been injured by another person’s negligence, sometimes a number of different parties will claim subrogation rights, and you will very much need the help of a good personal injury attorney familiar with the subrogation laws of your own state.