The collateral source rule is an important legal concept that governs what happens when a person receives two different sources of money. The rule says that if one of the sources pays more than the other, only the higher paying source can be used to offset damages from the injury case. This blog post will explore this topic in-depth and provide some examples for clarification.
It’s happening, you’ve filed your case, and you’re going through discovery with the opposing party. You get their interrogatories (only 50 allowed under G.A. Code § 9-11-33 (2019)), and you and your attorney begin to work through them and answer them. Well, your attorney is going to answer them. So don’t worry, you won’t have to engage in a battle of pedantic language with opposing counsel. But your very kind and good-looking attorney begins answering their questions as mandated by the O.C.G.A. and comes across a question asking about what payments have been made on your behalf for medical treatment. You’ve got a good job and good health insurance, so despite the extensive medical treatment you required, you only had to pay some co-pays out of pocket. Everything is square so far, but the orthopedic surgeon you consulted with is saying that you’ll need shoulder surgery if you want to lift your arms above your head any time after age 45. Luckily your insurance company is fighting you tooth and nail about paying for that surgery. But that is neither here nor there. Because it just occurred to you, if a jury hears about how your insurance paid for the vast majority of your medical expenses, will they be willing to award you a verdict based on your total costs? Or are they going to believe the Defendant’s insurance company and think you are just trying to profit off them when you didn’t have to pay for medical treatment out of pocket? Hah! Trick question. You’ve got a friend in the equal protection clause of the Georgia Constitution and the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment of the United States Constitution.
What is the Collateral Source Rule?
This particular gem is called the collateral source rule. It exists on the federal level as well as the state level. Here we will just concentrate on the rule and its application in Georgia, but it is nearly identical to the federal rule in practice. The collateral source rule generally prohibits a Defendant from presenting evidence to the jury that the Plaintiff previously received payments from some other source. This means that the Defendant is not allowed to talk about payments made by the Plaintiff’s own insurance company, whether that be auto or health insurance. This even covers non-standard sources like a community fundraiser, money from your parents, or even a GoFundMe. The idea governing this is summed up by the Georgia Court of Appeals in Harper v. Barge Air Conditioning, Inc., “In Georgia, the collateral source 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 credit toward the defendant’s liability and damages for such payments.” 313 Ga. App. 474, 480 (2011). Essentially, the court is saying that if a Defendant can present evidence that someone else already paid your bills, they would be let off the hook for the damage they caused. (One day, if I’m very upset with everyone, I will explain the unholy art of case citations and the sanity stealing, ancient tome of horror called the Bluebook.)
Alright, so now we know that even if they ask about it, you have to tell Defendant nothing. So why do they bother asking? Because you might tell them. Suppose you tell them exactly who paid for what and when, they are one step closer to getting that stuff admitted as evidence in the trial. Even if they can’t get it admitted, they will probably adjust how they deal with your case based on that information.
Further, a talented lawyer will try to get you to say something that they can twist and make you look bad. Or maybe, you might get so frustrated by the mischaracterization of what you said that you blurt out something that steps over that magic line known as “opening the door.” You see, friends, T.V. got it mostly right on this one. Opposing parties cannot ask about certain things because it would be unfairly prejudicial. But, if you bring them up first, it would be unfair not to allow the other side to ask questions about it. So if you open the door, you can bet they are running on through and bringing their friends with them. The sneaky devils.
Call the CEO Lawyer Personal Injury Law Firm
But worry not. Because if you hire a competent lawyer, you won’t have to worry about these uselessly tricky questions. And you might just end up with a wad of money when all is said and done. Well, we are out of space for this article. But look forward to the next one where we’ll continue our drive to educate you on some of the basics of the law and maybe have a little bit of fun along the way. Remember though, these articles are just to give you an introduction to some common legal topics. They are no replacement for a good injury and accident attorney. So please make sure you consult with an attorney before taking legal action and if you’ve been in a car wreck and want to make sure you get a fair deal from an insurance company, Call CEO Lawyer Personal Injury Law Firm at (833) 254-2923.
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Frequently Asked Questions
After a personal injury, you're bound to have legal questions. The CEO Lawyer Ali Awad can provide you with answers to these questions, just as he's given answers to his millions of curious social media followers. Take a look at some of the most common personal injury law questions for general information, and then reach out to one of our seasoned attorneys for specific guidance on your case!
To quickly resolve matters following an accident, insurance companies will offer you less than you deserve in compensation for your injuries. Many victims feel pressured to accept these offers as the bills begin to pile up, but that is rarely a good idea. The insurance company is looking to protect its bottom line; and will offer injured victims less than they deserve. An experienced personal injury attorney understands how to negotiate with the insurance company and can look out for your best interests by getting you the compensation you deserve after an injury. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, it is important to avoid negotiating or providing recorded statements to the insurance company without first seeking help from a qualified personal injury attorney.
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Many personal injury victims wonder if they will be able to afford the legal fees required to pursue a lawsuit. CEO Lawyer injury and accident attorneys will not ask for any type of upfront fee unless we are successful in obtaining compensation for you. That means that if you have been harmed in a motor vehicle accident, slip and fall accident, defective product accident, or any other type of personal injury accident, you can absolutely afford to contact our law office today for assistance. In fact, you cannot afford to wait. Reach out today.
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