Insurance and Lawsuits

Insurance exists in practically every negligence or gross negligence lawsuit filed in this country. A case almost never gets filed unless the wrongdoer has insurance to compensate a person for their wrecked car and body. For example, all drivers in Texas (and most states) are required to have liability insurance. If an automobile collision occurs and the liability for the wreck is disputed, one can guarantee that insurance is somehow involved.

The role of insurance is critical on three different fronts: for the injured family member to received the medical attention they need; for the alleged wrongdoer so their personal assets are protected and lastly for the taxpayers who through Medicare, Medicaid or hospital write-offs, would often have to bear the brunt of a wrongdoer’s negligence or gross negligence.

Under Texas law, juries are deliberately not informed about the role of insurance in the trial. Even though insurance companies will hire attorneys for the defendant or in some cases the defense attorneys are actual employees of the insurance company, the attorneys will have a separate law firm name so if a juror looks them up they will not know the lawyer’s true employer.

The mere mention of the word “insurance” in a courtroom is taboo and trial lawyers collectively panic when “insurance” is mentioned in fear of an automatic mistrial. Even during jury selection “insurance” is not used when asking potential jurors about their jobs or backgrounds. Instead, vague questions regarding “claims handling”, “subrogation” or “adjusting claims” are often asked that hint or tap dance around the real issue.

Most jurors are already aware that in a lawsuit an insurance company is paying for the defense and selecting the experts and deciding the strategy and witnesses for the defense. The perception that a jury will be more likely to find liability on the part of the defendant because they have insurance seems outdated and patronizing to modern jurors so the wisdom of the not being allowed to mention insurance at trial will continue to be debated.

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