Do you know the two things the Jury will never know about your case?

Most people who enter the legal world of personal injury and wrongful death cases are very surprised to learn about certain facts and procedures that occur in our civil justice system.  Here are two that surprise most people:

  1. If your case goes to trial, the jury will never know whether or not the at-fault party has insurance

Similarly, the jury will not know what amount of insurance coverage the at-fault party has.  That’s because in Tennessee the existence of insurance, or lack thereof, is not admissible into evidence.

This archaic rule is based on the theory that a jury would be more likely to award a larger amount of damage if they knew an insurance company, as opposed to the individual defendant, was paying the verdict. Even though everyone sitting on the jury knows that liability insurance is a fact of our modern lives, actually it’s the law in Tennessee that everyone who drives a vehicle MUST have it, if insurance is mentioned at trial the judge will almost certainly declare a mistrial and the case will have to be tried again.

Similarly in Tennessee State Courts, the at-fault party is not required to disclose the amount of his or her insurance limits to the injured party or their attorney. However, if your Tennessee accident case is one that is filed in Federal Court, the amount of any insurance coverage is discoverable.  Filing a substantial case in Federal Court as opposed to State Court—in cases where that is possible—is a strategy that can be used to discover the amount of insurance coverage the other party has.  An experienced personal injury attorney will understand the factors involved in deciding whether this is the proper strategy to take in a case.

  1. The jury will not know of any offers of settlement made before or during the trial

That’s right!  No matter how unreasonable the insurance company has been, the jury will never know it.  The insurance company’s lawyers will do everything they can to make you look like a money-hungry plaintiff out to get rich by filing a lawsuit. However, you cannot discuss the insurance company and the unreasonable things it may have done in the course of settlement negotiations that forced you into having to file a lawsuit and go all the way to a trial. This rule of evidence is based on the thought that if parties know that offers of settlement discussions will be used against them, they would never make offers and virtually every case would end up going to trial.