Discovery is an important phase in many car accident cases. It is a procedure by which parties hope to find information to support their claims for damages (or to defend their case). Under Georgia law, parties may obtain discovery regarding any matter that is not privileged, which is relevant to the subject matter involved in the pending action. While the law provides guidance concerning the type and extent of discovery that is permissible in any one case, the statute cannot address every situation, and, often, the courts are called upon to determine whether a request is appropriate. If you have been involved in a car accident, you may be entitled to a recovery for your injuries. The best course of action is to contact an experienced injury attorney from the Atlanta area who would be able to evaluate your case with an eye toward achieving the best possible settlement under the circumstances.
From the outset, an experienced attorney would know the relevant discovery requests to make, in order to obtain the information necessary to effectively bring your claim. In a recent case, The Medical Center, Inc. v. Bowden (Ga. Ct. of App. 2014), the court denied the injured party’s discovery requests, finding that they were not relevant to her claim. Here, Ms. Bowden was injured when the rental car that she was riding in was involved in an accident. She was taken by ambulance to The Medical Center (“TMC”) in Columbus. Bowden received emergency medical treatment, including surgery, and was hospitalized for three days. She had no health insurance.
TMC billed Bowden $21,500 for her treatment and filed a hospital lien to recover the costs of her care. Although settlement negotiations took place among TMC, the rental car company and Bowden, she refused to settle. Bowden brought a claim against TMC, arguing (among other things) that the hospital’s charges were unreasonable and excessive because she was charged more than an insured patient. To support her claim, Bowden sought discovery pertaining to 1) TMC’s pricing agreements with insurance companies, 2) information about TMC’s revenue and, 3) the number of uninsured patients it treats. TMC objected to the discovery requests on grounds of relevance and confidentiality.
The trial court granted Bowden’s request. TMC appealed the decision, arguing that the discovery request was not relevant to her claim and not reasonably calculated to lead to admissible evidence. The court of appeals agreed and reversed the lower court’s decision, pointing out that the issue in this case is whether TMC’s charges were reasonable.According to the court, the discovery that Bowden sought concerning rate-setting agreements and what she would have been billed under those agreements is not relevant to the issue of whether TMC’s bills for her medical care are reasonable. To support this conclusion, the court noted that under Georgia law, hospitals have the discretion to contract with insurance companies to set preferred rates.
As this case illustrates, discovery requests must be relevant to the underlying issue in a case. An experienced injury attorney would be able to easily identify the information needed to support the claims in a car accident case.
Stephen M. Ozcomert has over 20 years of experience handling car accident cases, representing individuals who have been injured as a result of negligent driving in Atlanta and throughout Georgia. Call us today at (404)-370-1000 to schedule your free initial consultation, or you can reach us through our website.
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