JOHN SMITH v. SALLY JONES; Where the Money Really Comes From
In the state of California, evidence of insurance is not allowed to be presented in civil trials. Evidence Code 1155 provides specifically that evidence of insurance is inadmissible. In fact, at the beginning and conclusion of a civil jury trial, the judge will provide an instruction to the jurors that reads as follows:
“You must not consider whether any of the parties in this case has insurance. The presence or absence of insurance is totally irrelevant. You must decide this case based only on the law and the evidence”.
As a result of this instruction, all too often jurors get the impression that the individual Plaintiff is seeking monetary compensation directly from the personal bank account of the individual defendant seated at the end of the table. Despite that impression, it is our job as trial lawyers to recover the full and just amount that will reasonably compensate our clients for the harms they have had to endure as a result of the negligence of some other party, be it an individual or a business entity. But if evidence of insurance is never admissible, where does the money from a judgment come from?
Time and again, jurors approach attorneys after a case has concluded and will ask whether or not the Defendant had insurance, or whether the judgment will be coming directly from his or her pocket. Jurors should never be concerned about whether or not the defendant will be individually responsible for any judgment or award that they provide at the conclusion of evidence. The fact of the matter is that in 99.99% of civil trials, the defense attorneys, their experts, investigators, and doctors are all on the payroll of a large insurance company. Their job is to ensure that injured parties are paid as little as possible for their injuries, regardless of what is fair, or just. Whether a jury comes down with an award of $1 or $1,000,000.00, the defendant’s insurance company is the one who is writing that check, and the individual defendant will leave that courtroom no richer nor poorer than he or she entered.
In civil trials, Plaintiffs cannot inform the jury that the Defendant does indeed have an applicable insurance policy covering him or her for the loss. Plaintiff similarly cannot present evidence to the jury establishing the fact that trial was necessitated only because that insurance company refused to make any reasonable, good faith attempts to settle the case. What Plaintiffs can do, and what this firm does in particular, is to make sure the jury knows it is their job to follow the law, and in doing so, award a fair and just amount that will reasonably compensate the injured party for both their injury, and the pain that they endured as a result.