Obtaining Compensation For Medical Bills after an Illinois Motor Vehicle Accident: Proving the Charges are Usual and Customary

A motor vehicle accident or pedestrian accident can be a traumatic experience and has the potential to cause painful personal injuries, such as a broken bones, painful back injuries, or head injuries. In 2010, there were approximately 89,000 persons injured in motor vehicle crashes in Illinois. This means that nearly ten people are injured in motor vehicle accidents every hour.

When an injured person incurs medical bills for treatment of injuries related to the accident, it is important to understand what may be required in order to obtain reimbursement. In Wills v. Foster, the Illinois Supreme Court held that Illinois follows the “reasonable value” approach in determining whether a plaintiff is allowed to recover their medical bills. In presenting medical bills as evidence, there are several potential pitfalls that a plaintiff should consider.

In Wills v. Foster, the Court held that a personal injury plaintiff may place the entire amount of his medical bills into evidence, provided that the plaintiff first establishes reasonableness of the amount charged by the physician or hospital. Wills v. Foster, 892 N.E.2d 1018 (Ill. 2008). In Illinois, whether a medical bill is paid or unpaid is important. In Arthur v. Catour, the Illinois Supreme Court held that if the injured plaintiff has already paid the bill, the amount of the bill is on its face reasonable, and is therefore, admissible. Arthur v. Catour, 833 N.E.2d 847 (Ill. 2005). Once paid, the defendant can only attempt to introduce counter-evidence that casts suspicion upon the bill or transaction.

To the contrary, if a medical bill has not been paid, it is the plaintiff’s burden to prove that the charges are reasonable. To prove reasonableness, a plaintiff can provide testimony to the court from an individual who possesses knowledge of the services rendered and the general charges for said services, such as a doctor or another medical provider. This witness then must testify that the charges are “usual and customary” for those particular services. It is critical to present evidence of reasonableness. Failure to do so will prevent the bills being entered into evidence, and the plaintiff will be unable to obtain a recovery for her damages.

The Willis Court also held that if the defendant stipulates the medical bills into evidence, or fails to offer any objection, the injured motorist no longer has the burden of establishing the reasonableness of the amounts billed. Once entered into evidence, it is the role of the jury to consider the amount to award the Plaintiff for the medical bills incurred as a result of the accident.

Dealing with injuries sustained from a motor vehicle accident can be expensive and confusing. It is important to understand what you must do in order to make sure that you receive all of the damages (compensation) you are entitled to in a potential lawsuit. If you or your loved one was involved in a motor vehicle accident, you should immediately contact a knowledgeable attorney.