You cannot talk about insurance in court
Washington Court Rules forbid the injured party from telling a jury that the wrongdoer has insurance. Sometimes this can confuse a jury. As a trial lawyer we are very conscious of this and make sure the proper steps are taken so our clients get full justice. We do not want a jury to mistakenly minimize our client’s recovery because of insurance issues.
The lawyer for the wrongdoer/negligent party is hired by the insurance company, not the negligent party
In almost all cases when someone acts negligently a lawyer represents them in court. That lawyer is hired by the negligent party’s insurance company. The negligent party really has no say in who the lawyer is that handles their defense. They don’t pay the lawyer, their insurance company does.
You will probably have to reimburse your insurance company
If your insurance company pays medical bills and you recover the medical bills at trial or in settlement you may have to pay back a portion (probably about two thirds) of the medical bills paid by your insurance company. The insurance company has to pay their fair share of the attorney fees and costs, but their contract will likely require you to pay them a portion of the medical bills back. There are some exceptions, when you do not have to pay anything back. We always watch for this.
The burden of proof in court is only 51%
In trial an injured party’s burden of proof is a “preponderance of the evidence.” However, insurance company lawyers will try to persuade the jury to hold our clients to a higher standard of proof than a “preponderance of the evidence.” Our job is to talk to the jury at the beginning of trial and make sure they understand the burden of proof and make sure they feel comfortable with it. If they don’t, we work with the court to make sure they are not a juror on our case.
Insurance company lawyers have standard tricks they use on juries
There are many tricks insurance company lawyers use. We like to list some of the common tricks:
1. Pre-existing condition (You already had the problem before the incident)
2. Failure to mitigate damages (You could have gotten better if you treated more or followed your doctor’s advice)
3. It’s someone else’s fault. (We didn’t do it.)
4. There’s not enough damage to your car. (You couldn’t be hurt that bad.)
5. Your medical records don’t support what you’re saying. (You are not telling the truth.)
6. Your doctor likes you so they are trying to help you and not really telling the truth. (Your doctor is biased.)
7. You probably hurt yourself doing something else (You caused your injury.)
8. You are overly focused on your injury and once the lawsuit is over you won’t hurt anymore. (It’s all in your head.)
How to Select a Personal Injury Attorney
Nowadays there are attorneys on television advertisements that promise they are aggressive and they will get you justice and they try hard to look very tough. Anyone can buy a television ad. That doesn’t mean they will be a good personal injury attorney. Almost everyone should want to settle their case and avoid trial. Trial is unpredictable, expensive and stressful. So how do you find a lawyer who can get you good results? The answer has to do with insurance companies.
Insurance companies have the money and they decide whether they want to pay a fair settlement or not. A good personal injury lawyer must have very good trial skills. In order to negotiate with insurance company you must negotiate from a position of strength.
Insurance companies do not settle cases because they care about injured people. Insurance companies settle cases because they fear they will have to pay large sums of money if they do not. Your personal injury attorney should be skilled in trying cases to juries and should have a good record of success. That way the insurance Company will respect them and take settlement negotiations seriously. Insurance companies know which attorneys are good trial lawyers and which attorneys are not. Insurance companies do not care if the lawyer has a fancy advertisement on television.
When lawyers graduate from law school their education is just beginning. Most lawyers choose an area of law and begin learning more and becoming better advocates. Just because someone has graduated law school does not mean they are a trial lawyer. In order to become a good trial lawyer one must gain experience and work with more experienced trial lawyers.
The lawyer must spend time with juries and understand how to communicate with them. Experience working with focus groups to understand what the public thinks about certain facts in your case is a huge advantage when trying jury trials. As a plaintiff’s trial lawyer there are some particularly challenging problems that must be managed during trial. Plaintiff’s trial lawyers must always be 100% truthful with every jury. Juries can tell when a lawyer is not candid.
It is particularly difficult when the court does not allow the Plaintiff’s trial lawyer to tell the jury important facts like the fact that the Plaintiff has insurance and has to pay back their own insurance company out of the jury verdict or that the Defendant has insurance and will not have to pay a dime out of their own pocket. Other examples of things courts routinely do not allow discussion about is whether the person who caused the car crash was drunk, on a cell phone, had a bad driving record or didn’t admit he was at fault until he was on the “court house steps.”
We routinely conduct focus groups so we know what a jury will think about our client’s case and we know that sometimes the court will not let us put in important evidence that focus groups tell us they want to know. Often we can solve these problems because we become aware of them long before the trial using focus groups and other techniques. With advance notice we can plan our cases much more thoroughly.
Our philosophy about juries is that they are here to help find the truth and do justice. It is our job to discover the story of the case and present it to them. We strive to not only tell our client’s story, we also try to understand and tell the story of the wrongdoer.
We are always brutally honest and we always ask for full justice from our juries. The jury is the consciousness of our community and they decide what the standards should be in the community after hearing BOTH sides. They decide how bad the negligence was and they decide how much harm was done to the innocent victim.
It is the attorney’s job to give the jury the important facts and spare them from days and days of boring testimony that is not relevant. We strongly believe in this philosophy and try hard to always follow it. Juries will come to your aid if you are truthful and they understand the case. We have seen juries with enormous amounts of courage.