Things the Jury Never Sees
8 Things the Jury Never Sees During a Personal Injury Trial
1: Crash Reports
There are many things the jury never sees during personal injury trials. Did you know in Florida there is no such thing as an “accident report?” They are actually called crash reports. The State of Florida officially re-named them crash reports in 1998 because accidents are avoidable if people take precautions and are careful. Therefore, there aren’t really accidents, rather people who drive unsafely and cause crashes. The law in Florida prevents the jury from seeing crash reports because of Florida Statute §316.066.
So, it basically says allowing the information from crash reports in trial would discourage people from telling police officers the truth about a crash. If people break the law, cause a crash, and admit it, the information can’t be used against them in trial. Since people don’t have an incentive to lie about crashes, it helps the State of Florida effectively investigate crashes more effectively. The law states, “No such report or statement shall be used as evidence in any trial, civil or criminal.” §316.066(7).
2: Who Got a Traffic Ticket
Another thing that the jury never sees is which driver got a traffic ticket from the crash. Florida Statute §316.650(9) says, “Such citations shall not be admissible evidence in any trial, except when used as evidence of falsification, forgery, uttering, fraud, or perjury…” Juries won’t know who received a ticket. Unless the person who received the ticket pleaded guilty or was found guilty. If a person pleaded no contest or just paid a ticket, it’s not an admission or finding of guilt. So the jury would never see it.
The jury will never hear about insurance in a trial. Florida Statute §627.4136, called the nonjoinder statute says, juries are not to know about the availability of insurance that will protect the negligent defendant. Nonjoinder statutes ensures the availability of insurance doesn’t influence the jury’s determination of damages. Before this statute, the law in Florida allowed people injured in a crash to sue the insurance company who insured the bad driver rather than the bad driver directly.
Florida changed the law which means it’s no one can mention insurance during a trial. Some people believed if the jury knew there was insurance, the damages given by the jury may be higher. Rather than if the bad driver had to personally pay the loss. However, if the jury doesn’t know about insurance, they may be sympathetic to the person. The jury may think the driver has to personally pay the damages. While in reality, the insurance will pay the full judgement.
4: Who Pays the Defense Lawyer
Ever wonder who pays the lawyer for the defendant? The insurance companies pay the lawyer and the defendant rarely has a say in who defends them. Many lawyers in court who defend bad drivers are actually employees of the insurance company. Most insurance companies like GEICO, State Farm, Allstate, and Progressive have “in-house” lawyers. These lawyers are employees at the insurance companies. The insurance companies pay them a salary for their work. Some insurance companies hire lawyers who are experienced and focus on defending claims. No matter the cost, the defendant does not pay for their lawyers because the insurance company pays the defense lawyers.
5: Insurance Policy Limits
The jury never sees what the insurance policy limits are because once a case goes to trial, the policy limits don’t matter. There are usually settlement negotiations before a case goes to trial. If an insurance company has an opportunity to settle a claim within the policy limits and doesn’t, there are risks. If it doesn’t settle before trial, they risk paying more than the policy limits. In most cases, the insurance company understands if they gamble and lose, their insured shouldn’t pay the loss. Insurance companies pay the judgment even when it exceeds the policy limits.
For example, imagine if a person who caused a crash only has a policy limit of $10,000. If their insurance company didn’t settle the case, then the insurance company would pay the total amount of a judgement, even over $10,000. If the insurance company refused to pay a judgement in excess of the policy limits, the insurance company would be in “Bad Faith.” Which means the insured could hire their own lawyer and sue their insurance company.
6: If the Parties Tried to Settle Before Trial
The jury never sees or hears about mediation or settlement negotiations. Attempts to settle cases before trial almost always happen. Before a lawsuit is filed, the attorney for the injured person will normally collect all the medical records and bills, any lost wage information, and any other important information about liability and damages. Then the lawyer will send a letter to the bad driver’s or doctor’s insurance company making suggestions to resolve the matter. If the injury lawyer and the insurance company can’t reach an agreement, then a lawsuit is filed. After the lawsuit is filed, a judge usually orders a “Mediation,” which is a confidential settlement conference.
Mediation allows each party to speak freely and confidentially about the strengths and weaknesses of their case to try to resolve the matter. It’s a great tool when both sides try to settle the case in good faith. Everyone agrees any discussions about settlement are confidential and cannot be brought into court, which encourages settlements. Sometimes certain insurance companies don’t negotiate, never offer money, and force their insured to trial. Unfortunately, those situations are quite common. Many insurance companies know if they force cases to go to trial, they will scare everyone away and win from people’s fear of trial.
7: Health Insurance’s Rights of Subrogation
Juries may think health insurance companies pay the medical bills in cases and it’s not part of an injured person’s compensation. The jury doesn’t know health insurance companies have what is called a “Right of Subrogation.” Which means since you were injured from the fault of another, when your medical insurance company pays medical bills, they are entitled to be paid back from any recovery you make from the bad driver’s or doctors insurance company. The same applies to workers compensation. If workers compensation pays for some of your losses, they are entitled to get paid back from your recovery as well.
8: If Something Broken was Repaired
If something broken caused you injuries, and it was later fixed, the jury won’t usually hear about the repairs. Repairs are known as subsequent remedial measures. So, if a weak board in a staircase is broken, causes injuries, and the business owner repairs the step, the jury never knows about the repair. The injured person cannot use this evidence to prove negligence. Even though this type of evidence is very relevant to proving cases, it is not allowed in front of a jury for public policy reasons.
We don’t want to discourage people from fixing broken things that cause injuries. Rather than letting repairs become evidence used against the at-fault person, as a society, we think it is better to exclude evidence about repairs. This encourages people to fix dangerous conditions.
These are just a few things juries are not allowed to know about during a personal injury trial. If you have any questions, please feel free to call me, Matt Powell, at 813-222-2222.