What You Need To Know Should Your Case Go To Trial
There are a few things we would like to share about filing a lawsuit if the insurance corporation denies your claim or gives you a low-ball offer.
Our trial law firm is always in favor of letting the jury know the WHOLE truth about a case. For that reason, you will rarely see Colorado car accident lawyer Peter Anderson object in trial. But the truth is, court rules prohibit us from telling jurors very important information that would assist them in making the right decisions for the right reasons.
10 Things To Know About A Jury Trial
1. Insurance Corporations Are Always Involved
INSURANCE IS INVOLVED IN AT LEAST 99% OF ALL AUTO ACCIDENT CASES THAT GO TO TRIAL.
But, Colorado law prohibits you or your Colorado car accident lawyer from telling jurors the whole truth. The insurance industry has lobbied the legislature so diligently that it has created a set of court rules that absolutely prohibit you or your lawyer from telling the jury the truth.
THE TRUTH: The defendant has insurance that will ultimately pay the judgment. Yet, the insurance company ensures the appearance that the money is coming directly from the defendant – so that jurors will include less money in their verdict. The insurance corporation is completely in control of all settlement offers and what they should contest in the trial. The insurance corporation’s settlement offers are often less than your medical bills and the jury will never be told of the insurance corporation’s low-ball offer.
2. Denying Claims Saves Insurance Companies Billions
Insurance companies have saved billions and billions of dollars since the mid-1990s by improperly denying claims and/or offering settlements far below the outstanding medical bills. Typically, these low-ball settlement offers are computer-generated. Few people want to endure a trial, and typically take whatever is offered. As a result, injured people are left with mounds of medical bills (unpaid by insurance), which leads to a greater number of personal bankruptcies in the United States.
Jurors often mention that if injuries are legitimate, the case should have settled with the insurer. That is the exact sentiment the insurance company is hoping for. It doesn’t matter if they offered $500 on a claim worth $500,000, or if their offer didn’t even cover the medical bills. The jury will never know, because you and your Colorado car accident lawyer are prohibited from ever mentioning the settlement negotiations during the trial.
3. We Cannot Mention the At-Fault Driver’s Traffic Ticket
4. Vehicle Damage Versus Occupant Damage
There is no connection between vehicle damage and occupant damage. In reality, some of the most significant injuries to passengers occur in cars where the automotive damage is small. Consider the reputable peer-reviewed journal article from Eur Spine Journale, January 2004 Vol. 13, pp 61 – 68, Injury of the anterior longitudinal ligament during whiplash simulation, by P.C. Ivancic, A.M. Pearson. M. M. Panjabi, S. Ito. Here, the study reveals that 3.5 g trauma caused injury, which is a low impact. Inertial injuries often occur in the absence of vehicle damage.
There is no minimum force at which injuries are known to occur. “It is well established that there is no connection between delta V and injury risk. In fact one study showed that chronic injury rates at delta V’s of 5-10 km/h were twice that of 10-15 km/h.” M. Kraft, et al., How crash severity in rear impacts influences short- and long-term consequences to the neck, ACCID. ANAL. PREV., 32(2): 187-95 (2000).
Additionally, we require that your medical doctors and treating providers provide honest, scientific-study backed evidence of your injuries–otherwise, we wouldn’t be at trial!
Despite this, a full scale insurance campaign has occurred since the 1990s to condition the public that less than $1,000 in vehicle damages = no injury. Basically, jurors can be misled by the defense to believe that you were not injured if pictures show little vehicle damages. This campaign is sometimes referred to as “MIST” (Minor Impact Soft Tissue). Insurers count on that conditioning, and paid experts to refute injuries in these car accidents.
But can you imagine your own treating doctors demanding pictures of your car before deciding if you were hurt? What would that say about the medical profession?
5. Medical Insurance Does Not Pay The Bills
After being injured in a crash, you should be focusing your attention on getting better–not fighting the insurance company for reimbursement of medical bills. Yet, this is too often the case. MEDICAL INSURANCE WILL NOT PAY THE BILLS; IT IS SOLELY THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE AUTO INSURANCE COMPANY.
We expect that our clients get the appropriate medical attention for their injuries, and that they continue treatment if prescribed by their doctors. We will only take cases that have solid, medically-defined and outlined treatment–and expect that our clients will continue treatment for the medically-prescribed duration. Yet, many times injured people will stop treating when they run out of money. It makes sense–you are out of pocket thousands of dollars, and are not sure how you will ever pay it back. Yet, the defense will try to poke holes in this during trial–you will face the humiliation of discussing your financial situation that prohibits you from getting all of the necessary treatment now and in the future.
6. Defense Doctors On The Payroll
There are a handful of defense-employed doctors making hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, providing reports which claim injured people, like you, didn’t sustain the injuries. These defense-paid doctors deprive injured people of their insurance benefits under their own insurance policy. Insurers then use these same doctors to refute your injuries in front of the jury, claiming that you were never injured in the collision, or that a minor accident 25-30 years ago now cannot be troublesome. Just wait and you will see it happen, either during the Independent Medical Examination your insurance company will require you to attend (or they will terminate payments for your treatment), during trial, or both.
7. Insurance Rates Don’t Rise With Large Verdicts
Almost all of the big money cases are business cases, not cases involving auto collisions. But, as insurers have conditioned the public to believe that auto collision jury verdicts are “out of control”, jury verdicts have fallen to their lowest point in 30 years. Insurance rates keep going up–even though jury verdicts have fallen. What does this mean? Insurance companies don’t have to pay out the money that they are taking from their policyholders, resulting in record profits and bonuses for their executives.
8. The Golden Rule
The Golden Rule requires that we, as trial lawyers, cannot ask the jury to put themselves in the position of the injured person when valuing the case. This Rule emotionally insulates jury members, who should be able to interject personal perspectives on how your injuries would affect their own lives. If the jurors don’t feel the loss personally, they won’t find as much value in the human harms and physical losses sustained by the plaintiff. In every case, we make every effort to select a jury of intelligent and caring people who will fully appreciate the significance of the human losses you have sustained.
One Bite Of The Apple.
Often times, jurors will think that you already received money from some other source and that you are just looking for more. Other jurors think that if the trial doesn’t go well, you can come back again for money later. Neither is true. There is only one opportunity to get all of the money for the past and future medical problems caused by the collision, and that is the trial. If the jury provides nothing, you get nothing. You only get one bite of the apple–your day in court.
When juries speak, companies listen: Because of verdicts that included punitive damages, children’s pajamas are no longer flammable, medical devices and auto fuel systems have been redesigned, and farm equipment and factory machinery include safety guards.
9. Personal Injury Cases Don’t Clog U.S. Courts
There is a common misconception that tort and personal injury cases clog up courtrooms across the country. Insurance companies, among others, insist that the number of these lawsuits is out of control and that they have resulted in the decline of our justice system. However, statistics from Colorado district courts show that, in fact, the opposite is true. Court records and statistics from 2003 through 2013 show that tort and personal injury case filing have declined. The percentage of tort and PI case filings over this period decreased from 13.45% to 4.53%. Source: The Numbers are In, CTLA’s Trial Talk, August/Sept. 2014
10. Hype About “Runaway Juries” Is False
The truth is: Jury verdicts are down. Lawsuit numbers are down. Tort filings in state courts have declined by 9% since 1992, according to the National Center for State Courts (NCSC). The truth is, only 2% of Americans file lawsuits, according to the Rand Institute for Civil Justice. In-state courts, only 5% of the tort cases filed go to trial.
The McDonald’s coffee case and others that have drawn media attention have distorted the public perception of the legal system, giving people the impression that huge sums are commonly awarded for questionable wrongs. There’s even a movie about it. As you will see at trial, 80% of jury pools will raise their hand when asked if the McDonald’s coffee case will pose a problem for them in deciding your case. The media twisted this story into something it simply is not.
The woman who spilled the McDonald’s coffee? She was 79, in the passenger seat of a stopped car, and the coffee scalded her so badly that she suffered third-degree burns and needed skin grafts. During discovery, McDonald’s produced documents showing more than 700 claims from people burned by its coffee between 1982 and 1992. Stella Leibeck’s case really never would have gone anywhere though, had it not been for the fact that McDonald’s refused to pay for Leibeck’s medical bills caused by the burns. She ONLY asked for her medical bills paid (and $0 for her other injuries), but McDonald’s refused. She had no choice but to sue. When the jury found out McDonald’s decision to keep the coffee at a temperature so hot they knew it would injure people, they returned a verdict equal to two DAYS of McDonald’s profits on coffee. Not two years; two DAYS of profit. But, McDonald’s wouldn’t pay that either. They appealed the case, and eventually settled the case for a much smaller amount of money. But, that doesn’t matter. The only message conveyed to the public was that a woman had successfully sued McDonald’s for millions because she spilled coffee on herself.