Talking about car insurance during a car wreck trial

By Jed McKeehan

Say you are involved a car wreck and you are hurt pretty seriously.  The driver who caused the wreck is a little old lady who is probably the nicest, sweetest grandma that ever lived.  Unfortunately, even though she’s very nice, she caused a wreck that sent you to the hospital and caused you permanent injuries.

You hire a lawyer and you try to negotiate with grandma’s insurance company, but they are low-balling you, and not offering you proper compensation for your injuries.  You end up suing grandma, and now you are actually going to have to have a trial!

Is there any defendant more sympathetic than a grandma?  You’re not going to get anything at trial!  But wait!  Grandma won’t be paying you anything anyway!  She has car insurance!  That’s what it’s there for!  Grandma won’t pay a dime, but I want her insurance company to pay me what I am owed!  What I deserve to compensate me for my injuries!  Won’t the jury see that I’m not trying to take money from a grandma, but an insurance company?

Unfortunately, the answer to your question is, “no, they won’t.”  Tennessee Code Annotated section 55-12-128 states that, car insurance shall not be, “referred to in any way, nor constitute any evidence of the negligence or due care of either party at the trial of any action at law to recover damages.”

So, what does this mean?  In your trial against grandma, the jury will think you are asking her to pay you thousands of dollars and not her insurance company!  The jury will never know that grandma isn’t paying for her lawyer, or any judgment rendered against her.  This is true in every single civil case in Tennessee.  And Tennessee is an exception in not telling the jury that there is insurance coverage for the defendant.

Not knowing this, definitely hurts all plaintiffs and their cases when they go to court.

 

Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties.  He works in many areas, including criminal, personal injury, landlord-tenant, probate, and estate planning. Visit attorney-knoxville.com for more information about this and other legal issues.

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