- The Gerring Law Firm
Should I introduce the amount of my medical bills at trial? The Anchoring Effect
This is a tactical decision that should be discussed with your attorney prior to trial. Missouri law says that you can only introduce the total value of medical bills owed at trial. You cannot introduce the amount that was originally billed, a figure which may be much higher. These two values can vary greatly if your health insurance has paid down or written off a substantial amount of your bills.
Rightly or wrongly, personal injury cases are generally valued by professionals and laypersons alike by the nature of the injury and the amount of medical bills that are outstanding. It is generally up to the plaintiff to decide whether they want to introduce the amount owed on their medical bills when making their case in front of the jury.
The danger of introducing bills is that, once introduced, the defense attorney will use the amount of your medical bills owed to argue for a lower-case value. This is especially true where other sources, such as personal health insurance, have paid down on the outstanding total.
Once the jury sees this lower figure, they very well may not move from it, causing your settlement to be much lower than if you did not introduce your bills at all. Unfortunately, it is human nature to equate dollars with value. Humans may be logical and rational beings, but we are often highly irrational when it comes to our decision making of value. It is a popular misconception that the human mind is always capable of carefully analyzing all data before arriving at a well-informed decision on value. This is especially true when we are asked to evaluate the value of things, we do not normally value, something like a personal injury settlement where there is a high amount of uncertainty.
According to research by Duke economist Dan Arriely, once a number is introduced, it becomes the reference point from which later prices are judged. In other words, the first number tends to “anchor” the value of later things. For a great explanation, watch Mr. Arriely’s video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cmOc0hRaBwo
It therefore may be a bad idea to introduce the value of your medical bills. You may be best suited focusing on the physical loss and pain and suffering you were forced to endure due to the accident rather than the amount it will take to make you whole. This will negate the effect of anchoring on the jury and provide you the opportunity of getting the verdict you deserve.