Maryland Personal Injury Attorneys: The Myth — and Truth — about Windfalls

If you saw the irreverent, tongue-in-cheek cult comedy Office Space, you may recall the scene where an auto accident victim — wheelchair bound and outfitted with IV bag, breathing tubes, arm and leg casts and an exaggeratedly elaborate head-immobilizing apparatus — throws a party to celebrate his new-found wealth after receiving a huge settlement. Grinning from ear to ear, he cheerfully tells his friends, “Just remember, if you hang in there long enough, good things can happen in this world. I mean, look at me!”

Cult comedies are not known for their tasteful treatment of serious topics. However, this one cuts to the heart of the matter.

Those whose lives have not been touched by a major accident tend to focus on sizable settlements and jury awards in an almost envious way, seeing them as windfalls for the victim. The surprising thing is, the legal system sees them as windfalls, too — and supports them wholeheartedly.

This is most apparent in the collateral source rule, followed in Maryland and only a few other states, prohibiting a jury from taking into account any other payments a plaintiff may have received when determining the amount of damages the defendant must pay. As a result, plaintiffs can actually collect, for instance, full compensation for medical expenses that have already been paid by their insurance company.

Why would our system support such a windfall? Because reducing the damages by amounts already paid would essentially result in a windfall for the defendant. The courts believe that if someone is going to benefit from the collateral source payments, it should be the injured victim, not the party whose negligence caused the injury.

After all, in real life, being injured in an accident is no laughing matter. The experienced Maryland personal injury attorneys at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton, P.A. can protect your right to full compensation if you have been seriously injured due to another’s negligence.