When it’s your turn for jury duty, there are a few things you may want to know before you get seated on a case. David Greene from the law firm of Greene & Phillips joined us to shed some light on this important topic.
The following questions and answers were provided by Greene & Phillips:
You say that there is important information that the jury is not allowed to know in a trial. What is that?
If you are selected for a jury of a civil trial where one party is seeking damages against another person or business, one important piece of information you are not allowed to know is if there is insurance available to pay for those damages.
Why is this important information to know?
As a jury member, you may see the defendant and sympathise with him. You may not want to make him pay tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, even if the evidence is clear that that amount of money is what it would take to pay for their negligence. In reality, 99% of the time, the defendant will actually have to pay nothing. It’s his insurance company that will pay for the damages, and you as a juror are not allowed to know that, and by extension not allowed to know how much coverage the defendant has.
Does anyone besides the defendant know if there is insurance?
Yes, the defendant, his lawyers, the judge, and the victim’s lawyer all know if there is insurance and often exactly how much insurance is available to cover the cost of the accident or injury.
You say that the defendant’s lawyer often works for the insurance company. How does that work?
It’s actually rare that in a civil case the defendant will hire his own lawyer. Most of the time the defendant lawyer is actually hired and paid for by the big insurance company trying to make sure they have to pay as little as possible on the case.
Why is a jury not allowed to know if there is insurance?
The insurance companies have a lot of sway in the state legislature. They are out to save money in the long run, and over the years they’ve put pressure on lawmakers to pass laws in their favor. It’s a problem that we are seeing more and more. People, who through no fault of their own, are in accidents causing terrible injuries, yet the person responsible for the accident and his insurance company get away without paying what they are supposed to pay, because a jury member may have pity on the defendant.
Such a difficult situation for all parties involved. David, if anyone has any further questions, how can they reach you?
They can call our office at 300-2000, or stop by our office during normal business hours at 51 North Florida Street.