The issue is something called the collateral source rule, an arcane corner of tort law. But it makes a big difference to how much injured people can recover.
In a nutshell, the collateral source rule says that the amount of damages paid to a plaintiff (Mr. Crossgrove) by a defendant (Wal-Mart) can not be reduced by payments received by the plaintiff from other sources (“collateral sources”) such as the plaintiff’s medical insurance. The concept has been around since 1854, and the Colorado legislature made this concept law in 1986 and strengthened it with a law set to take effect August 11, 2010.
Insurance companies hate this law, and tort reform advocates have been trying to do away with it for years. They say if the plaintiff’s medical bills have already been paid, the insurance company shouldn’t be forced to pay the plaintiff a “windfall.”
But the real issue isn’t plaintiff windfalls. The question is, what are the economic damages the other party caused to the plaintiff? The fact that the plaintiff has the good sense to buy or have access to insurance is irrelevant.
A wrongdoer should not be allowed to escape responsibility for the injuries they cause. They shouldn’t be allowed to reduce what they owe by an amount an injured party receives from other sources. That would be a windfall for sure – an unjust one.