The collateral source rule: Providing an incentive for liability carriers to step up in time.

Intuitively, the collateral source rule makes sense:

If you cause me damages, and I am forced to sue you to get repaid — you should not then be able to use the fact that in the interim I had to turn to my girlfriend, employer, mom, cousin, friend or whoever to help me out  to cover the costs as a reason why the jury should not award me money….

And that’s precisely what the collateral source rule says:

The rule bars the defendant from presenting any evidence as to payments of expenses of a tortious injury paid for by a third party and taking any credit toward the defendant’s liability and damages for such payments.

This is because a tortfeasor is not allowed to benefit by its wrongful conduct or to mitigate its liability by collateral sources provided by others.

The collateral source rule applies to payments made by various sources, including insurance companies, beneficent bosses, or helpful relatives.

Hoeflick v. Bradley, 282 Ga. App. 123 (2006).

So, when a clearly at-fault driver’s insurance company drags its feet in paying a property damage claim resulting from an accident, it only makes sense that the same insurance company should not be able to then turn around and prevent a  plaintiff from presenting proof of his property damages simply because he was forced to turn to other sources for payment…

The consequences of an auto accident can be devastating in ways that are obvious and also less obvious…

Setting aside bodily injuries and physical pain and suffering, a significant amount of stress and lost time may be spent figuring out how to get alternate transportation to get to school, work, medical appointments — and how to pay for and effectuate car repairs.

These consequences are no small thing — and depending on a victim’s own financial or other life circumstances at the time of the accident, they may prove devastating.

So, let’s just agree that as between an innocent driver who finds himself the victim of another’s negligence, on one hand, and an auto liability insurance carrier,  on the other, the insurance company should be the one to pay the consequences of failing to step-up in time to cover losses caused by its insured driver.

The collateral source rule helps to accomplish this (here for sample brief arguing for admission of property damage evidence under collateral source rule).

The collateral source rule rightly provides an incentive for liability carriers to make absolutely sure that when they choose not to step up to the plate on time, they have an airtight reason — or face the consequences of failing to do so.