Did you know that in Florida, there is no such thing as an “accident report.” They are called Crash Reports, and the State of Florida officially re-named them crash reports in 1998. The reason they are called Crash Reports, is because accidents can all be avoided if people take precautions and are careful. Therefore, there really are no accidents, only people who are driving unsafe, thus causing a crash.
Why does the law prevent the Jury from seeing the Crash Report? Florida Statute §316.066 basically says that in order to encourage people to tell the truth to the police officer at a crash, that if they admit any wrongdoing, then it should not be used against them later in a trial. So to help the State of Florida to more effectively investigate crashes, we won’t let the jury see the crash report. “No such report or statement shall be used as evidence in any trial, civil or criminal.” §316.066(7).
Who got the ticket? Why is this kept from the jury? This is another law Florida Statute §316.650(9) which says: Such citations shall not be admissible evidence in any trial, except when used as evidence of falsification, forgery, uttering, fraud, or perjury…”
Insurance is hidden from the jury. Florida Statute §627.4136 entitled the Nonjoinder of Insurers. Statutes says: that juries are not to know about the availability of insurance that will protect the negligent defendant. The intent of the nonjoinder statute is to ensure that the availability of insurance has no influence on the jury's determination of damages.
Before this statute the law in Florida allowed people who were injured in a crash to bring a suit against the insurance company who insured the bad driver, rather than the person directly. They changed the law and now prohibit any mention of insurance in the trial. It is believed that if the jury knew that there was insurance and that a person did not have to pay the damages personally, the damages given by the jury might be higher if they thought there was no insurance to pay the loss.
However, if the jury does not know about insurance, the jury may be sympathetic to the person who caused the crash, for fear that the financial loss might cause them harm even though the insurance will pay the full judgment.
Ever wonder who pays the lawyer for the defendant? The insurance companies pay the lawyer. And very rarely does the defendant have any say in who defends him or her. Many lawyers in court these days who defend bad drivers are actually employees of the insurance company. Many insurance companies such as GEICO, State Farm, Allstate, Progressive, have created “in house” lawyers. These lawyers are employees and paid a salary for their work. Some insurance companies hire lawyers who do primarily “Insurance Defense” work, and are experienced lawyers who focus on defending claims. No matter what the cost of the lawyers is, the person does not pay the cost of the defense. The insurance company does.
Ever wonder what the Insurance Limits are? Well, the jury never knows what the limits are, but it is important to know that usually before the trial started, there were probably some settlement negotiations. If an insurance company has an opportunity to settle a claim within their insured’s policy limits, and they don’t settle the case and it goes to trial, well, the policy limits won’t really matter. In most cases, the insurance company understands that if they gamble, and lose, that their insured should not have to pay the loss, and they pay the judgment even when it exceeds the policy limits. So if a person who caused a crash only has a policy limit of $10,000.00, and their insurance company did not settle the case, and now their insured is in a trial, the chances are very high that if the jury were to award anything over the policy limits, the insurance company will pay. If the insurance company did not pay and left their poor insured to suffer with a judgment against them, it would probably be a result of “Bad Faith” by the insurance company, and the insured may hire a lawyer to go after their own insurance company for putting them in this position.
Have you ever wondered if the parties tried to settle the case before a trial? The answer is almost always yes. Before a suit is filed, the attorney for the injured person will normally collect all the medical records and bills, any lost wage information, and any important information about the fault and damages, and send a letter to the insurance company for the negligent driver, or negligent doctor, and suggest that the matter be resolved. If they can’t agree and a suit is brought, the judge usually orders the parties to “Mediation” which is a confidential settlement conference. This allows the parties to talk about the strengths and weaknesses of their case, and try and resolve the matter. Mediation is a great tool when both sides try to settle the case in good faith. And to encourage settlement, everyone agrees that any discussions about settlement are confidential, and cannot be brought into court. Sometimes certain insurance companies have taken a position that they will not negotiate, they will never offer money, and they would rather force their doctor to trial, and the injured person as well. These unfortunate situations are quite common. Many insurance companies know that if they play hardball, they will scare many people away, and they win the benefit of the people who are afraid to go to trial.
The jury may think that since your health insurance company paid your medical bills, that you should not recover that money as part of the compensation for your losses. But the jury probably does not know that your health insurance company has a “Right of Subrogation” This means that since you were hurt by the fault of another, and since your health insurance company paid your medical bills, they are entitled to be paid back from your recovery.
Subsequent remedial measures: The fact that something was broken or dangerous, and that dangerous condition is what caused you to be injured and was later fixed by the at fault person, cannot usually be told to a jury. For example, when a weak board in a staircase is broken, and you are injured by the broken step, and the very next day, the business owner replaces or fixes the broken step, the jury will not be told about the repair. The injured person cannot use this relevant evidence to prove negligence. Even though this evidence is very relevant to prove your case, it is generally in-admissible because of public policy reasons. We don't want to discourage people from fixing broken things that cause injuries. So rather than letting repairs become evidence used against them, we as a society think it is better to exclude evidence of repair, to encourage them to fix the dangerous condition.
These are just a few examples of relevant evidence that the jury is prevented from knowing about in a trial.