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Howell bills refer to medical bills that were paid, not billed. Let me explain.

Howell Bills And California Medical Insurance

Let’s say you have medical insurance. You’re injured in a car crash and get medical care.

Generally speaking, your health insurance company pays the healthcare providers (doctors, hospitals) for your medical care. Most of the time, your health insurance company has an agreement with those healthcare providers. The agreement is usually just a contract to take less than what’s billed.

For example, your health insurance company could bill your healthcare provider $10,000 and send you a copy of that bill for your records. But your health insurance company agrees to take $3,000. The Howell bills are $3,000.

Most of the time, you’re unaware of this and it doesn’t really affect you. Here is how it can affect you.

Howell Bills And California Personal Injury Law

You decide to bring a claim against the driver who injured you in a car crash. You hire an attorney. The attorney asks you to send him your medical bills. You give the attorney a copy of the $10,000 bill you thought your health insurance company paid.

You think the driver’s insurance company will give you at least $10,000, because that’s the amount of your medical bills. But it won’t.

The driver’s insurance company only has to pay you the Howell bills, $3,000. It doesn’t matter what the medical bills are ($10,000), but what was paid ($3000).

That’s California law, and it comes from a famous case, Howell v Hamilton Meats.

According to that case, only the amounts paid, not billed, are “relevant to prove the plaintiff’s damages for past medical expenses.”

This is a complicated area of law, and there are a lot of cases that came after Howell v Hamilton Meats which interpret, apply, and discuss the rationale of the case.

Questions? Contact Me for a free consultation!

Evan Walker

Evan W. Walker is a La Jolla attorney who has practiced law since 2008. He has practiced law throughout California, Connecticut, and Louisiana.

Evan worked for and defended insurance companies during the first 7 years of his practice. Since 2015, he has represented people with personal injury and property damage claims and insurance disputes.

Evan’s practice is devoted to serious personal injury claims and catastrophic property damage claims. Areas of focus include security claims against bars and other businesses, government tort claims, fire and flood claims, and inverse condemnation. On behalf of clients, Evan has fought insurance firms, international companies, cities, bars, and casinos.

Evan regularly shares his expertise with other attorneys by teaching courses on insurance and inverse condemnation. He has taught several continuing legal education courses to Attorney Credits, a nationwide CLE company, and ProLawCLE, another nationwide CLE company. He also contributes to various podcasts and publications.


  • Member, State Bar of California
  • Member, San Diego Bar Association
  • Member, Consumer Attorneys of California
  • Member, Consumer Attorneys of San Diego
  • Member, La Jolla Bar Association
  • Member, La Jolla Village Merchants Association
  • Member, San Diego Chamber of Commerce