The more I practice law and take cases to trial, the more I am amazed that the general population thinks the case is truly against the Defendant with no insurance since an insurance company is not also named. Guess, what? You can not mention insurance in a trial. You focus on who or what did something wrong and as a result of them doing something wrong what damages have you incurred. Sure the insurance company is paying for that Defendant’s attorney 9 out of 10 times or it could even be your insurance company providing a defense to the other side for harming you, ie uninsured & underinsured coverage. Imagine getting struck by some reckless and careless uninsured drunk or underinsured driver with your whole family in the vehicle only to find out they have no assets, minimal coverage that will never make you whole or no insurance coverage at all. Well guess whose insurance company will provide them a defense against paying you full compensation in trial, stand up and poke holes in your case/life, and sit at the table with the drunk? In some scenarios your hard earned premiums paid to your insurance company is paying for that idiot’s defense against you. The good news is that at least it allows you to recover more than being dependent upon the drunk idiot and their personal coverages or assets.
One of my recent trials in Anderson County, involved a scenario of what happens when you have underinsured (UIM) coverage on your vehicle, along with behind the scenes negotiations. The at fault driver had $50,000/$100,000 in coverage which was a step above minimal coverage in South Carolina. It was a significant t-bone type collision with a litany of diagnostic testing at the ER that same day that all came back normal, thankfully. My client continued to have pains and followed up with orthopedic visits and PT but no definitive injury was diagnosed or could be pointed to with an MRI exam. The client continued to live their life with some modifications and inconveniences and that was the driving force in them wanting to have their day in court. However, the jury never knew we took the guaranteed money from the at fault driver during the mandatory mediation and therefore the client’s own insurance company fought against her and appeared to represent the Defendant during trial. To collect additional monies from her underinsured coverage, we would have to get a verdict over and above $50,000.00. After a hard fought battle stressing the human losses of my client on top of the significant collision and trauma, combated with the defense attorney stressing no actual injury, gaps in treatment, social media photos of my client doing activities that appeared to not limit her in anyway, the unanimous verdict came back at $50,000.00. We had hinted around at $125,000.00 but based on some juror feedback post trial, the female jurors thought my client’s legs were too toned to be that out of shape or without activity. Some of the men on the jury were willing to give the $125,000 but did not fight hard against the other jurors in the deliberation room that lowered the value. How they came to exactly $50,000.00 without knowing all the details outlined above, is amazing and ironic. Normally any verdict above the past medical bills submitted in conservative upstate, South Carolina venues is a win. However, to get that “good” of a verdict and collect nothing further was hard for both my client and myself. The flip side of those thoughts and feelings is in reality we had already collected money and been paid. Like athletic coaching, law can be the same, “What have you done for me lately?”, mentality when it comes to new money on cases or new cases with new facts being judged on past results & past facts.
Regardless of the behind the scenes actions, negotiations, or settlements, if you are a juror the main focus is what evidence and testimony can be presented to you during trial, coupled with the law the judge charges you with. Don’t come back and ask about things you never heard mentioned in trial but know to be true (Yes, there is an accident report from most wrecks but it is no admissible evidence. Yes, there is insurance and we cannot tell you how much, if any, has already been paid). If you saw how thick the books on Evidence and Civil Procedure are in law school you would appreciate that all those facts were able to be presented to you in such a timely and orderly manner. Of course we are fighting to get you more information and testimony during those breaks when you leave the room. Then again, sometimes the Judge, Clerk, court reporter or attorneys are tardy or just telling stories of the “Good ol Days”.