What Does the Jury NOT Get to Know in a Personal Injury Case?
Just as in all court cases, personal injury cases require evidence for a jury to reach a verdict. The evidential components of a case are critical in determining who is at fault for an accident, and the many forms of physical evidence and testimony all play a role in the result. Evidence laws determine if certain types of evidence is admissible or inadmissible in court.
The idea of certain evidence being inadmissible can sound strange. After all, shouldn’t the jury have access to every piece of information so that they can reach a fair and correct verdict? However, for various reasons, several types of what may seem like logical evidence in a personal injury trial are inadmissible in court. The following forms of evidence are not admissible:
Defendant’s Liability Insurance
Personal injury cases determine if one party is liable to another for money, as compensation for injuries or damages. To rule someone as liable, the trial must prove that the person was negligent. In some auto accident cases, the insurance company may provide legal representation and pay judgement. Even so, the jury does not get to know whether the defendant has liability insurance.
The law may require all Alabama drivers have automobile insurance, but it is not relevant in determining the outcome of the case if the defendant acted either negligently or wrongfully during the accident. The intent of this restriction is to keep the jury focused on the facts, instead of basing their decision for judgement on if the insurance company will be paying for damages.
Payment of Medical Expenses
In an accident, the person or party at fault may step forward to help pay for part of the damages caused. However, in a trial, the jury may view payment for medical expenses as an admission of guilt. To prevent this situation, law prohibits such evidence from court. Doing so encourages people to act charitably, without the fear that their act may hurt them if a later lawsuit arises.
In some cases of injury, the fault may rest with an individual’s or a company’s wrongful act or omissions. As such, the individual or company may take steps to correct the act or omission that caused injury so that there will not be similar incidents in the future. Alabama evidence law prevents cases from presenting such remedial actions as evidence.
The logic behind this follows the same thoughts as with payments of medical expenses. A jury may view correctional measures as admittance of negligence, which would discourage companies from correcting any dangerous situations out of fear of increasing their liability in a personal injury case.
Offers to Settle
Likewise, a jury may consider an offer to settle as an admission of responsibility for injury, so information about settlements is not permissible as evidence. Most personal injury cases at least discuss settlement, and many parties reach agreement through this process without ever reaching court. Keeping settlement open is favorable to individual parties, companies, and the court system.
Alabama Uniform Traffic Reports
Though the reasoning is not as clear for traffic reports as it is for other inadmissible pieces of evidence, Alabama Law Code 32-10-11 still prohibits traffic reports for submission at trial. Some exceptions exist, such as a police officer using the report to jog his or her memory when testifying. If this occurs, the jury cannot view the report or learn all the information in it.
Understanding what the jury can know in a personal injury case can be complicated, especially with restrictions such as these. Talk to a Birmingham personal injury attorney if you have questions about these restrictions. Attorneys are well versed in the law and can help determine what evidence applies in a personal injury trial.