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Mike Bryant
Mike Bryant
Attorney • (800) 770-7008

What The Jury Can’t Be Told: Overall

2 comments

This past month, we have been looking at things that we cannot tell the jury during a trial.  It is truly unfortunate that as the party with the burden of proof, meaning the party that has to prove everything by a standard more likely true than not, that we cannot tell the jury the truth.  I absolutely believe that the jury, during a trial, will start wondering about things that they are not told.  Because of this I am always concerned that my client will bear the brunt of not being able to be forthright and get all the information across during the trial.  It is one of the many ways an experienced personal injury lawyer can make sure your rights are  protected as best they can be under the law.

In most cases, the defendant does have insurance.  Under the rules as provided by the court, we cannot tell the jury about insurance.  Consequently, there are no questions about what coverage the defendant has or whether there is coverage.  I remember one case where after the fact, a juror asked why I would go after the elderly female defendant if I had already gotten the insurance money.

In Minnesota the medical bills are paid for by no-fault insurance and are reduced from the verdict in the same manner that wage loss is reduced if it has already been paid.  Consequently, at times the jury will believe they gave you more money than was actually received.

In Minnesota, along with the no-fault law came the requirement of thresholds.  Consequently, a plaintiff has to prove that they have a permanent injury or over $4,000.00 in medical bills in order to even receive the pain and suffering.  The defense lawyer is allowed to stand up there and offer a closing suggesting $3,000.00 in medical bills and no permanency and seem like they are giving the plaintiff something, but in fact they are telling the jury to give the plaintiff zero.

That defense lawyer is in most cases hired by the insurance company.  Consequently, the defendant, while being window dressing, really has no true expense in anything that takes place other than that they are not reimbursed for their wage loss or mileage for coming to court.  It is a giant charade put on that they actually care whether they have enough coverage to protect them against the verdict.

The plaintiff will have to pay their lawyer out of what they receive.  In Minnesota there are no claims that can be made in a personal injury case for the attorney’s fees.  Consequently, the number the plaintiff receives is often much less than what the jury believes that they have awarded.

Defense experts are often used in trial after trial.  While some questions can be asked about how often they work for the defense lawyer, the reality of the insurance company constantly hiring the same expert is never allowed to be presented to the jury.  Consequently, the jury does not have the full picture concerning the potential bias of these “experts.”

In cases such as underinsured motorist coverage, the jury is often not told about the amount of money that was paid for by the original defendant.  Consequently, a defense lawyer is allowed to stand up there and claim that an award of $90,000.00, in a case where there was $100,000.00 of third party coverage, would be adequate and that the jury should do the right thing and pay the plaintiff for those damages, when in reality the defense is really arguing for a zero.

Because the claim is against the insurance policy, a plaintiff can be in the position of suing their father, mother, grandmother, or other family member.  It really is not as family-threatening as it seems.  I often bring a motion to attempt to eliminate any information about who the defendant is because it actually is irrelevant.  If the defendant is admitting that they are at fault, the idea that they are the grandmother is only being used to inflame the jury and make it seem like the person is wrong by making such a claim.

The plaintiff has often had their life turned upside down.  The defense has spent sometimes years going through every single one of the plaintiff’s prior records.  Consequently, guesses about what is not out there or claims about hypotheticals should be absolutely ignored.  The plaintiff has been run through the ringer long before they were even able to step into court.

Delays are often caused by facts other than plaintiffs just sitting around.  It is not unusual for jurors to get mad at plaintiffs with questions of why it took so long to get to court.  Getting to court involves a number of different deadlines that include the very busy court system (which is usually busy with the criminal and business cases that have nothing to do with personal injury).  Most clients would love to get their case done a long time before they actually get there.  However, because of the system as it is today, they often wait years in order to actually get their day in court.

What happens in chambers and at the bench outside the jury’s hearing is important.  Jurors should not read too much into what takes place during things they are not part of.  The judge does that in order to protect the record and to make sure issues that could be prejudicial to the jury do not come out.  There is another situation where the person with the burden of proof can be penalized because the jurors have these questions that they should not have.

In most cases, the only issue is what would properly provide for the plaintiff under the law.  Consequently, when jurors go outside the law and do not provide for pain and suffering or do not adequately provide for damages, they do not really provide for justice.  Each and every line of the verdict form needs to be looked at specifically and if the evidence is provided, properly filled in.  Negotiations behind the scenes or tradeoffs as to numbers is not the way the system is supposed to work.  It is the plaintiff’s only day in court and only chance to get what justice should provide.

If you, your family or someone you know is going to trial in a personal injury case, you need to have an experienced trial lawyer on your side with success in helping people who are injured through no fault of their own. Because of all the potential ways that the insurance companies can take advantage, you need to know what your rights are and the best way to try your case.

2 Comments

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  1. Robert says:
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    A lot of what you suggest getting in front of the jury is irrelevant to the damages sustained,. These arguments are commonly made by Plaintiffs lawyers. Bias is a two way street with the same players showing up on either side. Big industry and dollars on both sides with cottage industries popping up to support whoever hires them.

  2. Mike Bryant says:
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    The thing is that the jury talks about these things and with many of them they seem to know somethings not being said. As the Plaintiff has the burden that cuts against them. It is why I think direct action states have it correct.
    As got experts the usual car defendant doesn’t hire them or even really have much to do with what is going on. Get the real party out in front so the jury can see. Thanks for reading and the comment