Many are more than a little surprised to learn about certain facts and procedures that occur in our legal system which are very common in personal injury claims. One surprising fact is how much information is hidden from the jury. Specifically information that is kept from juries in personal injury cases which include car accident cases, wrongful death, medical malpractice, etc.
For example, the attorneys and judge are prohibited from even mentioning whether a party has insurance, and if they do, a mistrial will typically occur. The jury will never be told if the defendant has INSURANCE and if so, how much.
It is important to note that if a case is filed in court, or if it goes to trial, the defendant will almost always have INSURANCE. The plaintiff and their lawyer will not devote hundreds of hours to work up and pursue a claim unless there is a guaranteed source of recovery (i.e., an insurance policy to pay a verdict). Jurors hearing a civil case can rest assured the defendant will have the means to pay any verdict that is handed down.
The defendant’s insurance company hires the lawyer, decides when to settle, basically makes all of the decisions when a case is in litigation. Most of the time the defendant has very little say about how the case is defended or if a settlement should occur. The decision about whether to settle, by how much, etc. are always made by the INSURANCE CARRIER.
Filing a lawsuit does not mean your case will be heard by a jury. Most personal injury attorneys would rather have a JUDGE decide the case instead of a jury. This is because too many jurors are highly SUSPICIOUS and SKEPTICAL of injured plaintiffs, and often refuse to give money for legitimate injuries based on a variety of reasons. To have a case resolved by a jury, one must file a specific document with the court and pay a $250 JURY FEE. If the plaintiff or defendant fails to file a JURY DEMAND, then the judge will hear and decide the case (unless the case settles before the trial date).
In more than 90-95% of nursing home abuse lawsuit, it is the defendant’s INSURANCE COMPANY that has requested a jury! Why is this true? Because juries will typically award less money (and sometimes no money) in personal injury cases than the judge will award.
Insurance companies are fully aware of the statistics that show a jury will typically award much LESS MONEY to an injured plaintiff than an experienced judge, especially in certain types of claims, like medical malpractice, soft tissue injuries, and other cases which may be difficult to prove.
**In most MEDICAL MALPRACTICE lawsuits (at least 90-95% of cases), it is the doctor’s defense attorney that files the Jury Demand and pays the required jury fee of $250! Yep, doctors complain of “runaway jury awards,” yet the DOCTORS’ ATTORNEYS routinely ask that the cases against them be heard by a jury!
**Most plaintiff’s attorneys will try to resolve smaller injury claims (less than $50,000) through settlement negotiations or by court-ordered arbitration. A program known as MANDATORY ARBITRATION allows the court to appoint a retired judge or experienced attorney (someone who is approved by the court) to decide the case in an expedient and cost effective manner, as an alternative to going to trial in court.
**You can APPEAL an ARBITRATION AWARD by requesting that the case be tried in court. However, if the party who appeals the award fails to do better at trial, that party will have to pay the non-appealing party’s attorney fees and costs.
**In more than 90-95% of personal injury claims that go to arbitration and are appealed, it is the DEFENDANT or the defendant’s INSURANCE COMPANY who appeal the award! Most plaintiff attorneys will rarely appeal an arbitration award because it creates a significant risk that the individual client may have to pay for the defendant’s insurance defense costs.
If an arbitration award is appealed and goes to trial, the jury will never be told that the case was first resolved by arbitration. And the jury will never be told the amount of the arbitrator’s award.
The jury will be left with the impression that the plaintiff and his/her attorney has forced them to come to court to decide a small case that should have been SETTLED . Often times the jury will resent a plaintiff in a small case, believing that the plaintiff is “litigious” or trying to “hit the jackpot” and then award the plaintiff a very small percentage of what would be considered a fair verdict (or sometimes nothing at all as payback for filing a lawsuit in such a small case).