The Law Says You Can’t Sue The Insurance Company Because That Would Make The Trial “Unfair.” You Cannot Even Say That The Defendant Is Insured In Front Of The Jury.
I am not sure when this rule started, but it’s pretty old. Somebody figured out early on that a jury would be more likely to award significant damages for an auto accident against a corporate defendant, such as an insurance company, than against an ordinary driver.
I haven’t seen any studies backing this up; but the rule was in effect well before I became a lawyer, and hasn’t changed. It is so established that virtually all judges enforce it without question.
The insurance companies have come up with different reasons for this rule. The first is that when someone buys auto liability insurance, the insurance company agrees to do two things. The first is to indemnify the driver – or pay any judgments against them – up to the limits of their coverage. The second is to defend the driver – which means paying a lawyer to defend him in a lawsuit.
So, technically, the insurance company is not even in the lawsuit – even though it is the company’s money that will be used to settle the case, and the lawyer defending the other driver reports directly to the company.
Another argument is that the amount of damages suffered by the victim has nothing to do with whether they are being paid by the other driver, or by Allstate, who insures him.
The argument goes on to say that the jury shouldn’t be “tainted” by knowing that there is a large amount of money available to pay the victim. This is called the “deep pocket” theory – that juries like to make defendants with “deep pockets” pay more.
As far as it goes, the “logic” doesn’t make sense. Why should the standard be the damages awarded against the individual wrongdoer, rather than his insurance company?
And as a practical matter these days, in Ohio, juries are almost always told that the victim’s health insurance company has paid his medical bills. If the jury knows that the victim’s bills are covered by insurance, shouldn’t it know that the other driver is insured as well?
In a lot of cases, uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage is in effect, and in those cases the victim has no choice but to sue his own insurance company under its own name. The jury knows about insurance in those cases, and the world hasn’t collapsed.
And most insurance attorneys will tell you that these days, the jurors don’t really care whether the defendant is an insurance company or an individual.
The jurors’ primary concern is whether the victim deserves a substantial amount of money for his pain and suffering.
Right or wrong, the law probably isn’t going to change very soon. Why not? The insurance companies have a trump argument – that they are trying to keep rates as low as they can, and doing anything which might raise rates is going to be against the public interest.
If you want to know about insurance, and how important it is to getting a full recovery for your injuries, speak with an experienced Cincinnati injury lawyer – call me, William Strubbe, at 513-621-4775 in Cincinnati.
Because all situations are different, and because there may be other facts pertaining to your case that I don’t know about, you should not rely on this answer for legal advice. I am not your attorney, and no lawyer client relationship has been formed.