Why Don’t Juries Hear About Insurance in Personal Injury Cases?
If you were a Juror on a Personal Injury Trial and were never allowed to hear the word “Insurance” in the trial and weren’t told that an Insurance Company Lawyer was hired to defend the person or company being sued, what would you be thinking? Would you think that the defendant himself would have to pay the verdict? Would you think that there must not be insurance coverage or else an Insurance Company would be the one being sued or at least would have been mentioned at some point in the trial?
In Pennsylvania, the Rules of Evidence prohibit the mentioning of Insurance in a Personal Injury Trial, period. The Insurance Company cannot be named in the lawsuit. Only the person or company that caused the accident is a proper defendant. During Trial, neither side can discuss whether or not a Defendant is insured or the amount of the insurance coverage. No one can disclose that an Insurance Company hired and is paying for the Defense Lawyer and any litigation defense costs. The Jury cannot be told that any Verdict will be paid by the Insurance Coverage, not the assets of the Defendant.
The stated purpose of the Rule is “fairness”, so that the Jury doesn’t just award money because it’s covered by insurance.
In reality though, I believe the Rule creates confusion and often prejudices the Jury against the injured party and in favor of the Defendant because the Jury wrongly assumes that since they didn’t hear about any insurance, there must not be any insurance in their case.
Real Life Examples
A few years ago, a good friend of mine was on a Jury in a Car Accident case. After the trial was over, he told me that, during deliberations, he and his fellow jurors discussed the fact that no Insurance or Insurance Company had been mentioned. They all assumed that meant there was no insurance, so the woman being sued was paying for the Defense Lawyer and would have to pay any Verdict. Of course this was not the case, the Defense Lawyer worked for an Insurance Company and the Verdict would be paid by Insurance, but the jurors didn’t know that. My friend said that sympathy for the financial consequences of a verdict against the Defendant impacted their award significantly.
Last week, I had a Jury Trial and I fear the same confusion may have hurt my case. When we picked the Jury, we were allowed to ask the potential jurors questions in a process called Vior Dire to make sure they were unbiased and could decide the case fairly based upon the law and not be unfairly tainted by any prior life experiences. I asked the Jury Panel whether any of them had been involved in any Personal Injury claims as a Plaintiff or Defendant and whether that experience would impact their ability to be fair in this case.
Many of the Jurors responded Yes they had been involved in an injury claim, but that the Insurance took care of it and “no one was sued personally.” This terrified me because the Jury could not be told in my case that the Defendant was insured by State Farm, that State Farm hired the lawyer and paid the experts and that State Farm would be paying their Verdict. Instead, I think they believed that I was suing the 19 year old Defendant, that there was no insurance and that defense costs and any verdict would be coming out of his pocket.
To me, the system is deceptive and unfairly tilted in favor of the Defense and the Insurance companies. The Jury should be told the truth. They should know that there is insurance involved. It’s not relevant to tell them how much insurance coverage exists. Nevertheless, the Jury should not be able to base their decision on the false assumption that the Defendant has no insurance coverage.
Tim Rayne is a Pennsylvania Car Accident and Personal Injury Lawyer with the law firm MacElree Harvey. For over 25 years, Tim has been helping injured accident victims understand t Tim has offices in Kennett Square and West Chester Pennsylvania. Contact Tim Rayne for a Free Consultation at 6108400124 or [email protected]