How Does the Collateral Source Rule Work in Washington?

If you or somebody you care about has been injured by the careless or negligent actions of another individual, you may be entitled to various types of compensation for your injuries. However, many states allow for the reduction of damages awarded to a plaintiff for their injuries by the amount of compensation already recovered from a third party, such as an insurance carrier. This is called compensation from a collateral source. Here, we want to discuss how the collateral source rule works in Washington.

How the Collateral Source Rule Works

In many states throughout the country, the collateral source rule prevents evidence that an injury victim is receiving compensation from other sources (including insurance carriers) from being admitted in court. Other states do allow this type of evidence in some cases, including bodily injury lawsuits, but not in other cases, such as medical malpractice. When an alleged negligent party is allowed to use this evidence, this usually means that the injury victim receives less compensation in the final settlement or jury verdict.

Courts in Washington are relatively gracious in dealing with physically injured plaintiffs when determining what damages can be recovered. In general, the defendant in a personal injury claim (the alleged negligent party) will not be able to deduct a collateral source of compensation from the amount they have to pay the plaintiff (the injury victim).

There is a significant debate about these rules, and many people argue that victims of injuries should not be able to file lawsuits for damages that have already been reimbursed from another source. These other sources often include:

  • Health insurance carriers
  • Property insurance carriers
  • Workers’ compensation insurance carriers
  • Life insurance benefits
  • Social Security disability benefits

In Washington, there are other types of payments that are excluded under the collateral source rule. This includes payments:

  • Made by industrial insurance
  • Made to injured firefighters
  • Medicare payments

Another side to this are various insurance laws that allow for insurance carriers the right to pursue subrogation to obtain reimbursements for claims they have already made to policyholders after that person has received compensation from the alleged negligent party. For example, if a health insurance provider pays $20,000 to a person to cover their medical bills, then an insurance carrier may use subrogation laws to recover that $20,000 from any settlement the victim is awarded from an at-fault party or the at-fault party’s insurance carrier.

An attorney can help with these claims

If you or somebody you care about has been injured due to the careless or negligent actions of another individual, business, or entity, you may be entitled to various types of compensation. This can include full coverage of your medical bills, any lost income if you are unable to work, general household out-of-pocket expenses that you payout, as well as various types of pain and suffering damages (coverage of emotional and psychological injuries, loss of quality of life, loss of consortium for a spouse, and more). An attorney will have the resources to fully investigate the case, work with trusted medical and economic professionals, determine liability, and fight for fair compensation.