The One Important Piece of Evidence a Jury Will Never See

LawAlmost all personal injury claims lawyers handle involve insurance at some point.  If the Plaintiff has health insurance, the health insurance company pays most of the bills and asks to be paid back if a recovery is made.  Almost all Defendants in lawsuits brought by attorneys have insurance.  Automobile accidents almost always involve liability auto insurance.  Premises liability (slip and fall or other on-property injury), other types of general negligence, and many dangerous product and fraud claims will be defended and paid by a commercial general liability policy.

While the courts in Alabama in recent years have allowed Defendants to admit evidence that medical bills were reduced and paid by medical insurance for the Plaintiff, the Alabama Supreme Court has gone in the exact opposite direction for telling the jury about evidence that a defendant is insured and will not ultimately pay the verdict.

Alabama Rule of Evidence 411 states that liability insurance cannot be admitted “upon whether the issue whether the person acted negligently or otherwise wrongfully.”  In other words, you cannot imply that a person knew they were going to act dangerously, so they went out and bought insurance.  This is logical.  But the rule in Alabama has been taken to the extreme, where a mistrial will be ordered if there is any mention that a defendant has insurance.  The original purpose of the rule has been lost and replaced with a rule that says defendants will be prejudiced if the jury knows they have insurance because the jury may want to award more against an insurance company.  In fact, the opposite is often the case.  Rather than focusing just on how much the plaintiff has been injured, juries who don’t know that insurance will pay the award also think about whether a large award, even if it is warranted, may put a company out of business or force an individual to sell their home.

States like Georgia have what is called a direct action statute, which says that an injured party can bring a direct action against the liability insurance of the other party.  This makes sense.  When an insurance company has not been fair with a plaintiff, they are named as a party to the lawsuit right next to the at-fault driver or business owner.  They do not get to hide behind the veil of saying this lawsuit would put the poor small business owner out of business because they are right next to the business as a named defendant.

The reality of litigation is that cases go to trial because insurance companies do not offer enough money to compensate plaintiffs.  Unfortunately in Alabama, juries almost never hear this or even hear that there is an insurance policy defending the case, paying the lawyer, and paying the verdict.  This is the most important economic factor in sending cases to trial, but juries never hear of it, not in Alabama anyway.

The Alabama injury lawyers at Jinks, Crow & Dickson, PC, have been fighting for the rights of the injured against insurance companies for over 35 years.  While we cannot talk about liability insurance in the courtroom, we know how to effectively tell our clients’ stories to juries so that they can be adequately compensated.  We have tried cases resulting in verdicts into the hundreds of millions of dollars.  Insurance companies know this, and so we are able to deal with insurance companies ahead of time to reach a settlement that is fair to our clients and avoids the time and cost of a trial and an appeal in most cases.

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