Why You Don’t Hear About Liability Insurance in a Jury Trial

memphis injury lawyer jury trial

Why You Don’t Hear About Liability Insurance in a Jury Trial

Did you know that during most Tennessee state court jury trials, you will never hear the word “insurance?”  That’s because 99% of the time, evidence of liability insurance is not admissible under the Tennessee Rules of Evidence.

Tennessee Rule of Evidence 411 provides that:

Evidence that a person was or was not insured against liability is not admissible upon issues of negligence or other wrongful conduct. This rule does not require the exclusion of evidence of insurance against liability when offered for another purpose, such as proof of agency, ownership, or control, or bias or prejudice of a witness.

Rationale

Rule 411 is based on the notion that disputes should be resolved based on the conduct of the people involved, not based on whether they have insurance.

Insurance Jury Instruction

Not everyone has insurance. Some people have some insurance, but not enough.  Sometimes a person will have purchased an insurance policy only to find out that it won’t apply to pay damages in certain kinds of lawsuits. Sometimes the Judge will issue a jury instruction in Tennessee to help guard against improper consideration of insurance.  When the instruction is used, the Judge tells the jury that:

[W]hether or not insurance exists has no bearing upon any issue in this case. You may not discuss insurance or speculate about insurance based on your general knowledge.  There are sound reasons for this rule. A party is no more or less likely to be negligent because a party does or does not have insurance. Injuries and damages, if any, are not increased or decreased because a party does or does not have insurance.

Tennessee Pattern Jury Instruction – Civil 1.05.

Insurance Information Is Still Useful

Just because we can’t use evidence of insurance in jury trials doesn’t mean we can’t make good use of the information.  Knowing whether parties are insured, and to what extent, helps us develop an efficient strategy for resolving a dispute, and it helps us give sound advice to our clients who are wondering if they should settle a claim or file a lawsuit.

Need help settling a claim with a liability insurance carrier?

We can help you. Wiseman Bray has offices in Memphis and Nashville Tennessee. Call us at 901-372-5003 or email us here.

Should you apologize after a Car Accident? Ask the Personal Injury Lawyer

Some people say “I’m sorry” because they don’t know what else to say in an uncomfortable situation. Others say “I’m sorry” to express sympathy or concern.  Some people say “I’m sorry” because they want to apologize for a situation they’ve caused. So, what would a personal injury lawyer tell you about apologizing?

What’s the legal effect of saying you’re sorry?

Suppose you’re in a car accident and it was your fault. Without a doubt, you know the other driver didn’t do anything wrong.  You can see that the other car is damaged and the driver appears injured. Should you apologize or admit fault?

Or, what if you’re in an accident but you’re not sure about who was at fault? You can see the other driver is hurt, so like any good Southerner, you go over and instinctively say, “I am soooooo sorry. Are you alright? Do you need an ambulance?” Have you just admitted liability for the car accident?

“I’m Sorry” = Not Admissible to Show Liability

Tennessee Rule of Evidence 409.1 addresses apologies and saying “I’m sorry.”  The Rule provides that certain statements and actions reflecting sympathy for an injured person are not admissible at a trial. The Rule is designed to encourage settlements. The underlying theory is that a settlement is more likely if a person is free to express sympathy to the injured person without making a statement that would be considered an admission of liability.

Statements of Fault are Admissible

Rule 409.1 only extends to “benevolent gestures” and does not exclude statements of fault. If you are a victim in an accident and someone tells you it was their fault, write down their exact words. This evidence could help your injury lawyer prove liability and can increase your chances of recovering damages. If you tell someone that you were at fault for an accident, then your statement will most likely be admissible as evidence if a lawsuit results.

Moral of the Story

A simple apology can go a long way toward making an injured person feel more comfortable with settling a case rather than filing a lawsuit. People like to receive apologies. Be human. Feel free to say “I’m sorry”, but be careful about statements of fault.

Need a Personal Injury Lawyer?

Call Wiseman Bray PLLC at (901) 372-5003 or email us here.  We have a personal injury lawyer for you. You can also visit our website to learn more about our approach to personal injury work  and some of the results we’ve achieved for our clients, with offices in both Memphis and Nashville.