One of the first questions I get from jurors after a car wreck trial – and sometimes during the trial- is, “Why didn’t y’all tell us about the defendant’s car insurance?” And it is a good question, but the simple answer is, I can’t. Alabama Law makes it against the rules to mention liability insurance in a trial.
Why is it against the rules?
Alabama Rules of Evidence – 411. Liability insurance.
Evidence that a person was or was not insured against liability is not admissible upon the issue whether the person acted negligently or otherwise wrongfully. 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.
Is it Fair?
No. While I agree that insurance should not be used to determine who was at fault, it remains an important component in deciding cases because often jurors are overly concerned with how a verdict will be paid. Informing the jury about liability insurance will eliminate that concern for the jury and allow them the freedom to focus on what is important – who was at fault and what amount of money is sufficient for the damages caused.
The rule also does not make much since because – as we all know – Alabama law requires that ALL drivers have liability insurance of at least $25,000. Even though we can’t mention it in the trial, the insurance is going to pay the jury’s verdict
What can you do?
Next time you sit on a jury, don’t let the fact that you haven’t heard anything about liability insurance influence your decision to do the right thing.