California Court Holds Injured Plaintiffs May Show Value of Medical Services through Medical Testimony, Not Unpaid Medical Bills

In a personal injury lawsuit stemming from a rear-end motor vehicle accident, the California Court of Appeal addressed the type of evidence that can be used to prove the value of medical services received. A trucker and his passenger were injured in a collision, and the court held that their doctors’ testimony could be used to establish the value of medical services received, but their unpaid medical bills could not.  The court stated that a billed amount is not necessarily representative of the true value of the service.

Joaquin Ochoa, a trucker, was driving his semi-truck without a trailer when a tractor-trailer driven by Jesus Felipe Dorado rear-ended his vehicle.  Mr. Ochoa had been stopped in traffic, and Mr. Dorada allegedly did not see Mr. Ochoa until it was too late for him to stop in time.  Mr. Ochoa and his passenger, Imelda Moreno, suffered back injuries as a result of the crash, and both underwent surgery.

Mr. Ochoa and Ms. Morena brought a lawsuit against Mr. Dorado and his employer for damages suffered in the accident. The trial court did not allow Mr. Ochoa and Ms. Moreno to present their unpaid medical bills as evidence of the value of medical services received.  They were also prohibited from using their doctor’s testimony regarding the value of the services received.

After a jury ruled in favor of Mr. Ochoa and Ms. Moreno, the court dismissed part of the jury’s damages award.  Mr. Ochoa and Ms. Moreno appealed.

The appellate court stated the rule that plaintiffs may recover damages for past medical expenses for the reasonable value of the provided services. Injured individuals can only recover the amount that the medical provider actually received. The rationale is that the amount the medical provider bills for the service is often not actually the cost of providing the service, nor its market value.  Some providers bill a certain amount and then accept a portion from insurance companies.  The court stated that the trial court correctly excluded the unpaid bills from the damages determination.

Regarding the testimony of the treating physician, the court stated that a treating physician may testify about the value of the services they provided, as long as the testimony derives from facts obtained from the doctor-patient relationship or independently from the injured patient’s legal case. In other words, a treating physician cannot be consulted for litigation purposes but must learn of the plaintiff’s injuries because of the doctor-patient relationship.  In this case, the treating physician was not an expert retained for litigation. Nevertheless, the trial court excluded his testimony on the reasonable value of services provided to Mr. Ochoa and Ms. Moreno. The appellate court reversed the trial court’s holding that the testimony could not be admitted as evidence.

The court remanded with instructions to promptly enter judgment and to conduct further proceedings according to the determinations on appeal.

The truck accident attorneys at Sharifi Firm are skilled at representing injured individuals and can guide you through the process of organizing your evidence in support of your claim for damages.  Contact our office by calling (866) 422-7222 for a free, confidential consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

California Court of Appeal Holds Truck Driver Parked Illegally May be Liable for Teenage Driver’s Injuries, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, October 21, 2015

California Court of Appeals Rules on Liability of Motor Carrier for Negligence of Contract Driver, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog,

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