Marty Hubbell Jan. 28, 2011

Plaintiff:     Doctor, Did my client incur these medical bills as a result of her motor vehicle accident?

Defense:     Objection.

Court:     Sustained.

    In just about any personal injury action, a primary goal for Plaintiff’s counsel is to introduce medical bills and medical records pertaining to the underlying cause.  There is a certain procedure that should be followed to ensure this admissibility (and to reduce attorney stress) so that the example above does not occur.

    In order for medical bills to be admissible, the charges must be: (1) reasonable and necessary; and (2) proximately caused by the motor vehicle accident.  The first element (reasonableness) can usually be established simply by providing opposing counsel with a copy of the bill five days prior to trial.

    “In an action for damages arising from personal injury, a written bill . . . itemized by date, type of service rendered, and charge, shall . . . be prima facie evidence of the reasonableness of any charges and fees . . . provided such bill . . . delivered to attorney of record for each adverse party not less than five days before trial.” O.R.C. §2312.421

    Just establishing that the charge was reasonable, however, does not make the bill automatically admissible.  After all, charges incurred for treating a cold are not admissible in a claim for injuries from a motor vehicle accident.  Proof must be provided that the charges were necessitated as a direct and proximate result of the accident.  Typically, this will require expert medical testimony.  See e.g. Lasley v. Nguyen (2007), 172 Ohio App.3d 741 (holding that plaintiff claiming neck injury from motor vehicle accident was not qualified to render opinion as to the cause of her medical injuries and that medical testimony was required.)

    To be admissible, a medical opinion on causation must be stated to a reasonable degree of medical probability.  Stenson v. England (1994), 69 Ohio. St.3d 451.  Thus, the following example establishes the introduction of medical bills

Plaintiff:     Doctor, let me hand you a copy of the emergency room bill, which I supplied to opposing counsel two weeks ago.  Do you have an opinion to a reasonable degree of medical probability as to whether these charges were necessitated as a direct and proximate result of the car crash?

Doctor:     Yes

Plaintiff:     What is that opinion?

Defense:     Objection

Court:     Overruled.

Doctor:     The charges were necessitated because of the car crash.

     At Thomas J. Diehl & Co., LLC, we have been handling personal injury claims in Southwest Ohio since 1988.  We regularly work with counsel in ethical fee sharing arrangements.  Thomas J. Diehl is a Fellow of the Litigation Counsel of America and a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum.