Am I Responsible for Accidentally Breaking My Friend's Thumb?

by Jim

Recently, I was having a conversation with a group of friends. While talking I made a swooping hand motion to describe something and accidentally hit one of my friend's fingers. This was before a city league volleyball game at the local rec center in Iowa.

Two days later he went to the hospital and found out he had a broken finger. He is now telling me I should pay for his medical bills because I accidentally broke his finger. I am not sure if he has health insurance. Am I responsible for his injury? Could he try to sue me if I don't agree to pay?

Thanks for any information you can give.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Am I Responsible for Accidentally Breaking My Friend's Thumb?":

Jim (Iowa):

Whether or not you agree to pay your friend's medical bills will be entirely up to you.

If you decide to pay you might look toward your homeowners insurance policy (if you own a home and carry homeowners insurance). You might be surprised to find you may be covered for your friend's injury even if the injury didn't take place on your residential property.

Otherwise you might pay outright for the bills or ask him to contact his medical providers and ask if it would be permissible for him to make monthly payments toward his medical bills. That way you can just give your friend the appropriate monthly amount and he can go ahead and apply it toward his medical bills.

Before doing so make sure you draw up a simple written agreement stating the exact amount you are to pay, stating if your friend chooses not to pay his medical bills with that money you will be relieved of any further liability to make any future payments of any kind.

That will inure to your benefit because in the event he chooses not to pay his medical providers you won't be personally indebted to your friend or those providers. If your friend doesn't pay the bills it won't adversely affect your credit, nor place you in jeopardy of medical collectors or lawsuits.

In the alternative, you can choose not to pay him. If you so choose the only action your "friend" could take would be to sue you in Small Claims Court. A broken finger's medical bills can't be very much, and certainly not much more than $1,500. And you can be pretty sure no attorney will accept such a case.

Even if he does choose to sue you in Small Clams Court the chances of his prevailing will be slim. What happened was an ACCIDENT. You didn't display any malice or forethought, nor were you negligent.

With that in mind you can be confident a Judge may very quickly dismiss the case, wondering why a friend would sue another friend for what was clearly an unintended accident. All in all, it appears you really don't have much to be concerned about.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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