We all know the feeling that accompanies receiving your mail and opening up an official looking letter that tells you that you have been summoned to appear in court for jury duty. While many of us may not feel pleased with the possibility of having to take time off from work and away from our daily lives to serve on a jury, the fact is that jury duty plays an integral role in our American justice system. Often times in Florida it is members of a six person jury that determines whether or not a defendant is liable or responsible for an injury suffered by a plaintiff and the dollar amount of money damages that a plaintiff should be compensated as a result of the injury sustained. Because a jury is tasked with such responsibility and in essence has the ability to determine the fate of a plaintiff’s case, one would naturally assume that the jury is provided with absolutely all the evidence and facts that are required to render such a decision and would be given a complete view of all the major components of the case. However, this assumption would not be correct in Florida, as there are a number of pieces of information that a jury is not allowed to know about when deciding a personal injury case.
Understanding Trial Attorney vs Plaintiff
Probably the most surprising to those unfamiliar with the subject is the fact that in Florida, when a plaintiff sues a defendant driver that he/she has been involved with in an automobile crash, a jury is not allowed to hear any evidence relating to the defendant’s insurance coverage. See Carl’s Market, Inc. v. Meyer, 69 So. 2d 789 (Fla. 1953). If you have ever been involved in a car crash, you are probably all too familiar with the fact that you are not dealing directly with the at-fault driver who caused the crash. Rather, you are dealing with an insurance adjuster who works for the insurance company and is defending your claim on behalf of their insured, the at-fault driver. It would then make sense that if you bring a lawsuit as a plaintiff the case caption would read “plaintiff vs. insurance company.” However, in Florida, under what is known as the non-joinder statute, Section 627.4136, the defendant in a lawsuit is the actual individual, not his/her insurance company and therefore the jury is forbidden to know about the existence of a defendant’s insurance coverage during trial. This means that at trial, the jury may end up feeling sympathy for the individual defendant, even though he/she is represented at trial by an attorney who is working for their insurance company and is covered under an insurance policy. Moreover, the jury might then be hesitant to provide the plaintiff with the compensation he/she deserves based on the incorrect assumption that the defendant does not have any insurance. This rule also limits the jury from understanding the magnitude of the role that the insurance company has had in defending the plaintiff’s case.
More On Personal Injury Jury Trials
It is not just the availability of insurance coverage that the jury is unable to hear about during trial. Florida law also limits the admissibility of the police crash report under Section 316.066, Florida Statutes. The underlying theory of this law is that it promotes individuals who are involved in an automobile crash to give complete and truthful information regarding the events surrounding the crash without fear that the information will be used later again them. However, the flip side of the law is that the jury never hears whether the defendant was given a citation (a ticket) for causing the crash that resulted in harm to the plaintiff. What may also seem as a surprise is that the jury is usually not allowed to hear about a defendant’s past history of causing prior automobile crashes. At the same time, however, if you yourself as a plaintiff were ever the victim of a previous automobile crash, the defense counsel and their hired experts will almost always attempt to discuss your previous accidents in order to avoid responsibility and downplay your injuries.
Contact Dolman Law Group
It is therefore critical that if you are involved in an automobile crash, you hire attorneys that are as familiar with handling these claims as the insurance companies and have the resources, time and energy to devote to litigating your claim. The attorneys at Dolman Law Group can be that advocate for you. Please call 727-451-6900 for further information.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765