The collateral source rule and, more generally, pre and post verdict setoffs of economic damages, have become extremely complicated under Florida law. For instance, Florida law treats past medical expenses differently depending on whether they were paid by Medicare or Medicaid or by private health insurance. In the case of Medicare or Medicaid, the courts have held that a jury may hear only the net medical bills after insurance adjustments. In the case of private health insurance, the courts have held that the jury may hear the total amount of the bills, although the defense is likely entitled to a post verdict reduction or setoff. To further complicate things, other types of insurance, such as personal injury protection coverage (PIP), are treated differently than either of the aforementioned types of insurance. In recent determinations, the Florida Supreme Court has provided additional guidance in this general area of law. Unfortunately, the Court's rulings are not favorable to defendants. Lower court decisions in Florida concluded that a plaintiff's future Medicare benefits are free and unearned and should not be excluded by the collateral source rule. However, the Florida Supreme Court has determined that evidence of a plaintiff's future entitlement to Medicare benefits, as well as Medicaid, may properly be excluded at trial. The Supreme Court has reasoned that "it is absolutely speculative to attempt to calculate damage awards based on benefits that a plaintiff has not received and may never receive . . ."
Thus, under current Florida law, there exists little or no ability of the defense to present evidence of or receive any credit for payments received by plaintiffs from other sources. Of course, this will potentially result in a windfall to plaintiffs. Most obviously, a plaintiff who receives a reduction in medical bills due to insurance coverage will receive a significant windfall. A jury will not be allowed to receive any evidence or information to allow a reduction in recognition of these likely future reductions, a point that must be kept in mind when evaluating a potential award for future medical expenses.
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