Years ago, an engineer friend of mine served on a jury in a personal injury case. Later, he told me that during the entire process he (and several other jurors) believed information was not being provided them. They were right. Sometimes evidence is not admitted at trial and not seen by the jury. Our evidence rules are designed to prevent evidence that is not relevant or too prejudicial from being considered. But, sometimes the same rules also prevent the jury from hearing evidence needed to tell the full story.
If you have been hurt and need a lawyer, you need one with trial experience. Procedural and evidentiary rules can be complex. Your lawyer needs to know the rules and how to apply them quickly in trial situations. Unfortunately, many of the lawyers now advertising for automobile accident cases do not go to court. Some have never been to trial. They would not know how to argue a case effectively in a courtroom. Insurance companies know which lawyers will go to trial and it impacts the settlement offered you. When hiring a lawyer, you should absolutely ask questions about real trial experience.
What is one big issue kept secret from the jury? At trial, the jury is never told that the defendant actually has insurance. The rules in Alabama, and many other jurisdictions, forbid the jury from being informed about the defendant’s insurance coverage.
Is this a good rule? Some people think so. But, many others disagree. The rule can often lead to unfair results that do not fully compensate personal injury victims. When jurors believe the defendant must pay all the verdict out-of-pocket, they often award the victim less than the full damages. The result leads to verdicts not appropriate for the damages suffered.
The truth is that almost all defendants in car wreck cases and other injury cases, have insurance. Insurance covers the damages caused by the defendant. And, insurance covers the costs of defending the case. The insurance company even provides a lawyer for the defendant. That’s why defendants typically have excellent trial attorneys – the insurance company is using its experienced lawyers to defend the case. Insurance companies and the lawyers they use to defend cases, know the rule forbidding anyone from mentioning coverage. It impacts their appearance and actions in court.
Recently, a personal injury law firm in Florida that regularly advertises, created a new commercial. It’s caused quite a controversy in Florida. The commercial by law firm Morgan & Morgan reveals the truth — that defendants have liability insurance and this fact is kept secret from jurors. Here is what the lawyer in the advertisement says:
I am going to tell you something that the insurance companies don’t want you to know. In almost all of our car crash cases, the person who caused the crash has insurance, but the jury is never allowed to know. I don’t think that’s fair. You might feel sorry for the at-fault driver because you think they will have to pay, but the insurance company pays for that driver’s lawyers, court costs, and the verdict.
Insurance coverage is just one issue kept secret from jurors. What are some other issues the jurors never know? In most personal injury cases, the injured plaintiff has attempted to settle his/her case. Before filing the case, the injured person usually tries to negotiate with the insurance company. Sometimes, the insurance company refuses to negotiate. After filing the case, negotiations through mediation are often attempted. The jury is not allowed to hear about settlement attempts. While good reasons for this rule also exist, it sometimes leads jurors to the wrong conclusion that the injured plaintiff did not try to resolve the dispute. One last example — remedial measures. Did the defendant do something (repairs, changes, etc.) after the accident which might have prevented it if done before the event occurred. With some exceptions, jurors are not generally allowed to hear about the defendant’s remedial measures. Do the jurors hear all the facts? Often, they do not. The evidence rules work to prevent jurors from hearing the complete story of the case.
If you are interested in the Morgan & Morgan advertisement, here is a link to it.