SECRETS THAT THE INSURANCE COMPANIES KEEP FROM THE JURY:
Courts often keep Juries in personal injury cases in the dark about certain things that would affect their decisions. Most of these rules benefit insurance companies. It is absolutely important that you hire a knowledgeable attorney who not only knows these tactics, but knows which ones can be circumvented for the purposes of getting as much of your case in front of the jury as possible.
WHY DIDN’T THE PLAINTIFF SUE THE DEFENDANT’S INSURANCE COMPANY RATHER THAN THE PERSON WHO CAUSED THE CLAIM? AND WHY ISN’T THE JURY ALLOWED TO KNOW IF THE DEFENDANT IS INSURED AND IF SO, HOW MUCH?
There is a long-standing rule in Florida that forbids a Plaintiff from telling a jury about the defendant’s insurance coverage in personal injury trials. Carl’s Markets, Inc. v. Meyer, 69 So.2d 789, 793 (Fla.1953).
I respectfully disagree with this rule and think it is improper and unfair. I believe that jurors are more than able to use this information responsibly and keeping it from them is intentional and misleading.
The effect of this rule is that a person who is making a claim against someone else’s insurance cannot sue that insurance company, but must instead sue the person who caused the claim. Then at trial, the Plaintiff and her personal injury attorney are forbidden not only from telling the jury how much insurance a defendant has, but may not even talk about whether the defendant has any insurance at all.
I have never gone to trial where a defendant did not have insurance. This has been my practice for many reasons and I feel that when I do, the jury should at least know that the defendant is in fact insured.
In each insurance claim made, the person’s actual disagreement in the amount of the harm suffered is with the defendant’s insurance company, not the insured. Yet the Plaintiff has to name the defendant by name in the law suit; “Mrs. Plaintiff v. Mr. Defendant.”
I constantly see examples where I suspect that a defendant would have preferred that the insurance company pay the amount requested by the Plaintiff, but instead he or she is forced into trial by her own insurance company. I understand that insurance companies don’t even tell their insured how much the plaintiff has requested for this reason.
The problem with the practice of this rule, is that it gives insurance companies another reason to fight injured people and rely on sympathy for their insured to ask for artificially lower verdicts (and settlements) and force people to trial when they should not be doing so.
In reality, all juries in personal injury cases should know that a defendant is insured and should know at what point their verdict exceeds the defendant’s policy limits.
SO, DID THE DEFENDANT GET A TICKET OR NOT?
The insurance companies do not allow the jury to hear about whether the defendant got a ticket for causing a crash, nor do they allow statements made to the responding officer into evidence either.
This position is supported in Florida where even if a defendant pleads nolo, (no contest), the ticket will never be known to the jury. The only time when a defendant’s ticket actually gets introduced into evidence is when the defendant actually pleads guilty or is found guilty. Statements made to police officers by parties to an action are almost never allowed into evidence.
HAS THIS DEFENDANT HURT PEOPLE BEFORE?
Again, the jury will probably never hear about it. In the past decade as a practicing personal injury attorney in Florida I have sued countless negligent drivers who have actually hurt people before in collisions. The courts in Florida do not allow me to discuss this with the jury. Often times a seemingly pleasant defendant has a long history of speeding and carelessness that the jury will never know about.
On the contrary, if a Plaintiff in a personal injury suit has ever been in a crash, that often becomes the insurance company attorney’s theme at trial.
WHY DOESN’T THE PLAINTIFF BRING MORE WITNESSES?
Before every trial, plaintiff attorneys in Florida I have a conversation with their clients about which witnesses to bring to trial. We are allowed to bring a witness or two who knew the plaintiff both before and after the crash who can talk to the jury about the harms and losses.
In every trial I have ever been in, the insurance companies’ attorneys have asked the court to limit the number of before and after witnesses to one or two, claiming that the additional testimony is duplicative and slows the process down.
In fact, this is no less than an defense tactic which make trials harder on plaintiffs.
WHY DON’T ALL OF THE PLAINTIFF’S DOCTORS COME IN AND TESTIFY?
It is a fact that in Florida, we personal injury attorneys rarely ever told what day a trial is actually going to start until that day, which makes scheduling nearly impossible. This problem is eased on insurance company defense attorneys who put on their case second, giving them a few days warning to line up doctors and experts.
As a practical matter, although a person’s treating physicians almost always agree with their patients (that they are hurt and that an accident caused the injury), they are trained to be doctors not witnesses, and hate leaving their practice to come to a courthouse ever for any reason. They often vehemently request not to be pulled out of their busy practice to come to trial.
WHY DON’T WITNESSES TALK ABOUT HOW HONEST THE PLAINTIFF IS?
Insurance companies do not like a jury hearing about how honest a plaintiff is because it hurts their case. They argue that it is improper bolstering of character. Insurance company defense attorneys argue that whether a plaintiff is a good person or not is irrelevant as to whether a defendant caused a crash or whether they are injured.
CAN SOMEONE REALLY GET HURT WHEN THERE IS VERY LITTLE DAMAGE TO THE CAR?
Absolutely. Claiming that a person could not have been permanently injured just because there is not a lot of damage to the cars involved is a completely false statement made by insurance companies and their attorneys. Study after study has proven this wrong.
This argument is an old myth that more and more are becoming aware of, as more and more people each year are injured with little damage to the car. At this point many people in Florida actually know someone who was in a small fender bender, but just hasn’t been the same since. Sometimes those people have made insurance claims but they often do not.
It is a statistical fact that there is simply almost no relationship between damage to the car and injuries to people inside. Experts agree, the best way to explain this phenomenon is that when a car does not crumple, very little of the shock gets absorbed by the body of the car. Instead, the force of the impact is transferred into the occupant’s body, leaving a person head to whip backward and/or forward causing injuries to the neck. Often times, when a car crumples, there is actually less whiplash to the people inside.
Of course the insurance companies want people to believe that this is not the case. They often repeat over and over how little damage was done to a car, and rely on that to win at trial.
Importantly, studies performed with actual cars and actual people inside the cars mirror the statistics of what happen to the public; that that permanent injuries do in fact occur with very minor damage to the cars, even when the only repairs needed was repainting the bumpers.
WHAT IS A LETTER OF PROTECTION (LOP), AND DOES THAT MEAN THAT THE DOCTOR IS PULLING A FAST ONE?
LOP stands for Letter of Protection, and they are actually very common for people have health insurance or money to pay out of pocket for medical treatment.
When a person who has no health insurance and not enough money to pay for medical treatment the doctor is given two options:
- Don’t help that person and send them away because he will never be paid.
- Treat the person, but withhold collections until the end of the case with the person’s promise that the doctor will be paid out of the settlement.
Insurance companies and their defense attorneys do not like this because they would far prefer that a person has no treatment at all, keeping bills down and making it impossible for a claimant to find out the full extent of their injuries.
The insurance companies’ attorneys tell the jury that these LOPs mean that the doctor cannot be trusted. This could not be farther from the truth. The doctors that truly care for their patients and want to help them will offer this valuable customer service. It sometimes means that the doctor may never be paid, and that if they do get paid, it will not be for months.
Importantly, the doctors who offer to treat a person under an LOP are not waiving their fee. The injured person still has an obligation to pay the fee regardless of the outcome of the case. Despite this, insurance attorneys still ask juries to cut the doctor’s fees knowing full well that the plaintiff still has to pay the full amount regardless of what the jury says.