When it comes to the court of law and the general public, the two intermingle in interesting and diverse ways. Most people are not legal experts, but they know enough about the laws that affect their life to make reasonable decisions. This is our civic duty.Likewise, the more you know, the more educated of a decision you can make.
This idea presents two ideas: first, people who don't deal with car accident cases every day probably aren't experts on the topic; and second, if they were to be involved in a case of that type, they should have all the facts. But, when it comes to sitting on a jury or even being a plaintiff or defendant, people are often surprised to find out that this isn't how it always works.
This leads me to a story that was recently published by the DailyReport.com; and again a week later by Law.com. In the article, writer Greg Land covers the headline, “Law Firm's TV Ad Sparks Defense Bar Backlash.”
The story is about a recent law firm's commercial and the semi-controversial nature of its content.In the commercial, the attorney tells consumers something the insurance companies don't want you to know. He is referencing that jurors of an injury case aren't allowed to know if the defendant (the at-fault party) is insured or not. Whether the commercial is controversial is questionable, but the law that limits the jurors' knowledge most definitely is.
The firm that Land references is Morgan & Morgan, specifically Matt Morgan, who is the representative in the commercial.
Those who have lived in Florida for a while are most likely familiar with the Morgan & Morgan name. Even if you haven't lived in Florida, you may still know them, since they also have a large amount of offices in Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, New York, Alabama, and Arkansas.Altogether, the firm employs about 300 attorneys and many more paralegals, assistants, and various other supplementary positions. The point is, they are a large firm with a wide, national reach.
Attorney Advertising and the Law
In a 1977 U.S. Supreme Court case, Bates vs State Bar of Arizona, it was decided that attorneys should have the right to advertise. Ever since then, firms have been bombarding TV, radio, print, and the Internet with ads for their firm. According to the Supreme Court, it is their right to do so because of the protection of the First Amendment. The allowance of attorney advertising has created some questions about what can and cannot be said. For this reason, each states' Bar Association regulates this area of legal practice, setting strict and clear laws to prevent false advertising or the misrepresentation of their firm or the law.
Today, the prevalence of attorney advertising has familiarized the general public with all kinds of lawyers and law firms in their area, as attorneys boast that they can get you out of a DUI or win you hundreds of thousands of dollars for your car accident.
There is no doubt, attorney advertising is questionable in its ethics, but it's necessary for firms to have the right to promote their expertise and business.
The Contention over the Commercial
Morgan and Morgan commercial has recently raised concerns, specifically in Georgia, but also across the US, about whether or not Morgan & Morgan crossed an ethical line. This is because he gave out information that is legally required to be withheld from jurors when they sit on an injury trial.Some civil defense lawyers, who would represent the at-fault party and their insurance company in an injury case, have complained that the commercial may cross the boundary into jury tampering.
The transcript of the commercial in question:
Matt Morgan: “I am going to tell you something that the insurance companies don't want you to know. In almost all of our car crash cases, the person who caused the crash has insurance, but the jury is never allowed to know. I don't think that's fair. You might feel sorry for the at-fault driver because you think they will have to pay, but the insurance company pays for that driver's lawyers, court costs, and the verdict. Spread the word. Now you know. [Morgan then states the firm's slogan and call to action]." The commercial can be found here.
The issue that some have with the commercial is that in a court room, just as Morgan mentions, neither attorney can mention whether or not the person being sued has insurance. This law comes from a precedent set by a previous case, Carl's Markets vs Meyer.The reason for the restriction is to limit the way in which jurors decide cases. For example, jury members may feel like a big insurance company can afford to pay (which they can), so they may award more than the case is worth (at least that's the thinking). Or, if the jury thinks that poor Miss Smith, who is 70 years old, is going to have to use all her life's savings to pay for the damage (which she won't if she has insurance), then they will probably award less damages. The idea is to keep the jury in the dark about who is actually paying the settlement.
[For more information on what plaintiff attorneys are not allowed to discuss in court, see this article.]
This directly relates to another misconception in injury trials: who the defendant named in the case is.According to a Florida law called the Nonjoinder of Insurers, the at-fault driver must be named as the sole defendant on a case, even though the plaintiff is really seeking damages from their insurance company. This, too, tricks juries into thinking that the person is going after Miss Smith's hard earned money when they are really looking for the insurance company to do what they are supposed to, insure Miss Smith and pay for any damages she caused. That's why it's called insurance.
So how inappropriate was Morgan & Morgan 's commercial?
The first clue is that no actions have been taken against Morgan & Morgan, and it is unlikely that they will. After all, the law applies to the jury in a court case, not the general public who may or may not be on a personal injury jury later in life.
Morgan said this in an email published by Daily Report: “The insurance industry has spent millions and millions of dollars buying influence and having laws enacted that are anti-consumer [and they] spend hundreds of millions a year in TV ads with false promises and lies.”
The Daily Report also gathered quotes from attorneys and legal advisers from around the country who had mixed feelings about the commercial.In the end, Morgan simply didn't violate any laws or regulations and clearly stands by his comments.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
We, at the Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, support Morgan's message in his commercial. We feel jurors should have as much information as possible in order to make an educated decision regarding their verdict.
Therefore, it's critical that you hire an experienced attorney if you are involved in an automobile crash. You want someone representing you that is just as familiar with these types of loopholes as the insurance companies is. It's also imperative that the attorney you hire has the resources, time, and energy to devote to litigating your claim.
We hope that you will allow the attorneys at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA to be that advocate for you. Please call 727-451-6900 for further information.Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765