Jury Trials, the Missing Facts, What You and Jurors Do Not Know
I am David W. Ransin of Ransin Injury Law, a board-certified personal injury and trial lawyer in Springfield Missouri. For over 30 years I have dedicated my practice to help protect injury victims and their families. In my years of experience, I have witnessed firsthand the tragic effects that serious auto accidents have on families. I believe that the public should have as much knowledge as possible to protect themselves and their families should they ever have to deal with a personal injury as a result of an auto accident. The following is information that many people simply do not know as it relates to personal injury trial law.
First, anything that you have ever seen on TV related to a trial, please discard. As a personal injury attorney it is my job to prepare every case, I handle as though it is going to trial. A jury trial resembles nothing like what we commonly see on television.
In my experience, the average jury trial lasts two to three days, in some cases maybe a week. Imagine having to condense two to three years of pain and suffering, not to mention the financial burdens of medical bills and lost wages that the injured party has suffered into this short trial timeframe. I will do my best to create a brief synopsis of what happens in a jury trial and what the jurors are unable to see.
Most people simply do not understand that the insurance company is in control of the entire personal injury claim and legal process. However, you are never going to hear the word insurance come up in a jury trial. In the state of Missouri, our laws require you to sue the person, not insurance company, who caused your personal injury. What is misleading about this statement is that the insurance company will be paying for your legal fees and for verdict or settlement if there is one? So the insurance company has all the control, but we never hear about them in the jury trial.
Why this Matters?
Most jurors will never know if the defendant has insurance, what their insurance coverage are. The attorneys and judge are prohibited from disclosing whether the defendant is insured, and if they do, a mistrial will typically occur.
In general, if a personal injury claim is filed in court and goes to trial, the defendant will most likely have insurance. One example excluded from this would be if the defendant is independently wealthy and is self-insured. So in reality while some jurors are worried if the defendant has the means to pay the verdict, the reality is that in most cases they will have the funds to pay whatever verdict is handed down.
The Defendant’s Attorney
The insurance company normally hires the attorney to represent the at-fault party, they have the control and authorization to settle, and will make nearly all the decisions when a case is in litigation. The defendant has very little, if any, control on how the case is defended, settled, etc. The decision to settle, and how much is made by the insurance carrier, however, we never hear the word insurance in the trial.
Over the years, I have been asked several times after the trial by a juror if the defendant was remorseful for his or her actions. The reality of a jury trial is that many times a juror will be wondering about aspects of the case during the trial that I am unable to clarify, and thus, they will have to fill in the blanks for themselves because they never will be told things like does the defendant feel apologetic for the pain and suffering they have caused.
Many people worry about the financial hardships, they will cause the at-fault party if they sue, as surprising as this sounds, it’s a common question I receive from my clients. The reality is that they shouldn’t always have to worry about causing another person fiscal hardships; an example would be if the at-fault party was driving a vehicle on the job, then the insurance through their employer is going to be paying for the verdict, not the at-fault party.
As a personal injury attorney I represent clients and provide legal service with no upfront fees. The only money that I will take for my services is provided by the settlement or verdict. In a jury trial, I am just able to ask for what my client has lost, their lost wages, medical expense, pain and suffering, loss of benefits, but not for their attorney fee, this is something that I cannot ask the jury for and will always be paid by the verdict.
The Reality of Personal Injury Jury Trials
When I file a lawsuit on behalf of my client, this does not mean that the case will reach a jury. Most personal injury cases are heard by a judge, and allow the judge to decide the case rather than a jury.
In many cases, this is to my client’s advantage, why? Because many jurors are skeptical about my injured plaintiffs; remember they are not allowed to know whether the defendant has insurance, and how much. With the lack of facts and disbelieving nature of jurors sometimes, it is my job to present the best possible legal strategy to my clients as each case has its own set of unique circumstances.
In more than 90% of personal injury claims, the defendant, i.e. the insurance company requests a jury trial. Why? Because insurance companies play the odds, they know that the statistics will show them that juries will conventionally award less money in personal injury cases than a judge will typically award. I have found this to be true when a case involves injuries that are more complex, soft-tissue injuries, medical malpractice and other cases are more difficult to prove, the insurance company will ask for a jury trial, so they can try to reach a verdict which is much less money than what an experienced judge would award.
Arbitration Jury Trial
Another aspect many people do not realize is that many personal injury cases are settled through arbitration, typically personal injury cases that are under $50,000 in damages are settled through this process. These settlements can be appealed by the defendant, meaning the insurance company, if an arbitration award is appealed and goes to a jury trial, the jurors will never be informed that their case has already been resolved by arbitration, and they will not know the amount awarded to my client that is the reason for the appeal in the first place.
Why does this Matter?
Again, my client, not the defendant is put into a situation where a juror who is not allowed to know all the facts of the case. The client is then perceived to having brought this injury claim to a jury trial for a small amount that should have been settled, creating the perception that my client is trying to cause a problem. Therefore a jury could use this perception to award a smaller amount than the original arbitration entitled my client to.
Ok, so the point of this article is to showcase that the defendant is actually the insurance company; the insurance company is basically in full control of the case. In personal injury jury trials if you are the plaintiff you are at a disadvantage from the start as the jurors will not be told:
- Does the defendant have insurance?
How much coverage does the defendant’s insurance policy cover?
How does the defendant feel about the damage he/she has caused?
Is this case an appeal from a previous award?
How much was awarded to the plaintiff?
Jury trials are not what you see on TV, personal injury attorneys are not always the stereotype that many people create because of the tasteless ads. The reality, I have spent over 30 years fighting for the injured, fighting at times an uphill battle, gaining and using all the legal knowledge and experience possible to beat insurance companies who use certain aspects of the legal system not to pay out the money that these victims and their families deserve, so that they can get back to their lives and recover. Because at the end of the day; my clients did not ask to be injured; they did not ask to have their lives turned upside down. They did not want to have to sue for hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars, but the injury, their losses, the mounting medical bills and treatments needed to recover are their reality, my passion, my 30-plus years, is in the pursuit of what is fair, and helping my clients fight what at times is an uphill battle.
Our Promise to Our Clients
My promise to each and every one of my clients is that I will work tirelessly as your advocate to ensure we make this a fair fight, and I will do everything in my power to try to receive the full compensation their injury deserves. Please contact David W. Ransin at (417) 881-8282 and schedule a free case evaluation today.