By Cory Bilton
Back when I was an undergraduate, my friends and I sometimes took spontaneous road trips. Three or four of us would pile into a car with an odd assortment of backpacks, snack foods, and musical instruments. Since these trips often involved hundreds of miles through multiple states, paying for gas became a group responsibility. Though the rule was unwritten, everyone in the car seemed to instinctively agree that each should pay a share of the gas money. We didn’t spend a lot of time discussing this because it just struck everyone as the fairest way to take a road trip. Each of us felt obligated to pay a share for the benefit that was being provided by the car.
Nearly every personal injury case includes claims, in addition to the injured person’s, for the money recovered from the wrongdoer. You can think of these claimants as the passengers of a vehicle on a road trip. Everyone in the car is trying to get to the same place; a successful settlement or judgment for the injured person. Sometimes these claimants are other insurance companies. For example, companies that provide health coverage or personal injury protection coverage. Other times there are unpaid medical bills or unpaid expenses, and doctors or hospitals claim the right to be paid from the proceeds of the case. These claims can arise because of language in a contract, a state statute, or because of equitable principles in the law.