Arthur Liebling Attorney and Counselor at Law
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What the Jury Never Sees

Did you know that in Florida, there is no such thing as an “accident report.” They are called Crash Reports, and the State of Florida officially re-named them crash reports in 1998. The reason they are called Crash Reports, is because accidents can be avoided if people take precautions and are careful. Therefore, there really are no accidents, only people who are not driving safely, thus causing a crash.

Why does the law prevent the Jury from seeing the Crash Report? Florida Statute §316.066 basically says that in order to encourage people to tell the truth to the police officer at a crash, if they admit any wrongdoing, then it should not be used against them later in a trial. So to help the State of Florida to more effectively investigate crashes, the jury cannot see the crash report. “No such report or statement shall be used as evidence in any trial, civil or criminal.” §316.066(7).

Who got the ticket? Why is this kept from the jury? 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…”

Insurance is hidden from the jury. Florida Statute §627.4136, the Nonjoinder statute says that juries are not to know about the availability of insurance that will protect the negligent defendant. The intent of the nonjoinder statute is to ensure that the availability of insurance has no influence on the jury's determination of damages.

Before the enactment of this statute, the law in Florida allowed people who were injured in a crash to bring suit against the insurance company that insured the bad driver, rather than the person directly. Current law prohibits any mention of insurance in the trial. It is believed that if the jury knows there is insurance and that the negligent driver does not have to pay the damages personally, the damages awarded by the jury might be higher.

Ever wonder who pays the lawyer for the defendant? The insurance company pays the lawyer. And very rarely does the defendant have any say in who defends him or her. Many lawyers in court these days who defend bad drivers are actually employees of an insurance company. Many insurance companies such as GEICO, State Farm, Allstate, and Progressive, have created “in house” lawyers. These lawyers are employees and paid a salary for their work.

Ever wonder what the Insurance Limits are? While the jury never knows what the limits are, it is important to know that usually before the trial starts, there were probably some settlement negotiations. If an insurance company rejects an opportunity to settle a claim within their insured’s policy limits, and the case goes to trial, the policy limits won’t really matter. In most cases, the insurance company understands that if they gamble, and lose, their insured should not have to pay the loss, and they pay the judgment even when it exceeds the policy limits. So if a person who caused a crash only has a policy limit of $10,000.00, and their insurance company did not settle the case when it had the opportunity to do so, and now their insured is in trial, the chances are very high that if the jury were to award anything over the policy limits, the insurance company will pay. If the insurance company did not pay and left their insured to suffer with a judgment against them, it would probably result in “Bad Faith” by the insurance company, and the insured may hire a lawyer to go after their own insurance company for putting them in this position.

Have you ever wondered if the parties tried to settle the case before a trial? The answer is almost always yes. Before a suit is filed, the attorney for the injured person will normally collect all the medical records and bills, any lost wage information, and any important information about fault and damages, and send a letter to the insurance company for the negligent driver or negligent doctor, and suggest that the matter be resolved. If they can’t agree and a suit is brought, the judge usually orders the parties to “Mediation” which is a confidential settlement conference. This allows the parties to talk about the strengths and weaknesses of their case, and try and resolve the matter. Mediation is a great tool when both sides try to settle the case in good faith. And to encourage settlement, everyone agrees that any discussions about settlement are confidential, and cannot be brought into court.

The jury may think that since your health insurance company paid your medical bills, that you should not recover that money as part of the compensation for your losses. But the jury probably does not know that your health insurance company has a “Right of Subrogation” This means that since you were hurt by the fault of another, and since your health insurance company paid your medical bills, they are entitled to be paid back from your recovery.

 

 

Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope.

Robert F. Kennedy