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Why Isn’t The Jury Allowed To Learn About The Defendant’s Insurance?

Because the insurance companies are worried the jury will make a much bigger award against an insurance company than against a private person.

Theoretically, it should not make any difference.

Unless punitive damages are at stake – and they seldom are – judges tell jurors to determine the damages based upon the viewpoint of the victim, without reference to the defendant or his actions. Theoretically, if fault is not an issue, under the American system of civil justice, it shouldn’t make any difference whether you are suing Allstate Insurance, Mother Theresa, or Bin Laden.

This is because we want to be fair. If the system tries to do more than just get someone fair compensation for their injury, and starts weighing the wrongdoer’s personal merit, revenge and partiality will become factors. Most people don’t want that.

The reality is different. The jury doesn’t see an abstract case for damages; they see two people, and the lawyer for the victim is asking them to take money away from the other one.

One of the most effective arguments I have heard from an insurance lawyer is that the victim “wants a large and substantial amount of money from my client.”

From his client? His client, the guy who rear ended my client, won’t have to pay a dime. State Farm Insurance, who is paying him, is whose money we are talking about here.

Why should he be allowed to play on the jury’s sympathy? It’s unfair! I’m not allowed to ask the jury to award millions against State Farm!

Nevertheless, that’s been the law in Ohio for the last 100 years.

There are exceptions – such as when you are suing the insurance company itself, because it provides uninsured motorist coverage, or because it didn’t do a good job of monitoring its agents. In those cases, the jury knows that insurance money is on the table.

Most lawyers will tell you that they are personally convinced that the jurors know that the defendant carries insurance regardless whether the insurance company is actually named in the lawsuit.

And they are right – to an extent. But the jurors don’t know that for certain, and they don’t want to guess. They don’t want to start giving someone else’s money away, unless they know that a big company is involved.

How do lawyers use this knowledge? When you have a lawsuit against an insurance company for uninsured motorist coverage, the policy makes you sue both the insurance company and the motorist who caused the accident – even if he does not carry any insurance. They want you to have to ask the jury for money from the poor schlep who hit you.

And victims’ lawyers use it too. If my client is hit by a bread truck, I don’t just sue the driver – I sue the bakery. I do this because the law says an employer is responsible for things its employee does, because the employer acts through its employees.

I have been a lawyer over 30 years. Sometimes appearance matters as much as reality. If you’ve been injured in an accident, talk with an experienced Cincinnati Personal Injury Attorney about the case. Call me, William Strubbe, at 513-621-4775.

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.

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