When you file a lawsuit for injuries after a car accident in Georgia, you have to sue the at fault driver and not the insurance company. Juries get confused and don’t understand that there is only one trial against the defendant with the at fault driver’s insurance company standing invisibly behind them. The insurance company pays for the the at fault driver’s lawyer if they are sued after a car accident and the insurance company will pay any verdict up to the policy limits. Our trial this past week unfortunately showed that juries get confused by the way the law is in Georgia.
Let’s make this clear then. If you are on a jury listening to a car accident case understand that there is car insurance involved, that’s who is paying for the attorney for the at fault driver. We are just not allowed to tell the jury that during the trial.
We finished day 4 and 5 of our car accident trial in Jonesboro, Georgia and State Farm put forth two hired expert radiologists who testified that despite the lack of prior pain complaints by the client, the herniation pre-existed the crash. Closing arguments were made on on Friday and the judge sent the jury to deliberate at 2:00pm after he read the law ( the jury charges). By Friday at 5:30, the jury was deadlocked so the judge sent them home for the weekend.
The Clayton County jury returned yesterday (Monday) to continue their deliberations and unfortunately for the client, they returned a defense verdict today at approximately 2:00pm.
We spoke with the jurors afterward to find out their thoughts and were dismayed to learn that the jurors did not understand why the lawsuit was filed against the defendant as a person without the insurance company being named. The jury wrongly concluded that there would be another lawsuit against the insurance company on another day.
This illustrates one of the key difficulties with the jury system. Under Georgia law, we are not allowed to talk about car insurance during a Georgia car accident trial. The jurors are forced to deliberate thinking that the lawsuit is only against the driver who caused the crash.
No one wants to drive a fellow citizen into financial ruin and the end result is jurors who think that to return a verdict against a defendant is to ruin the defendant’s life. This was made clear in this trial when the jury sent out a note to the Judge: “can we find for the defendant and still award money to the plaintiff?”
The jury simply assumed that this trial was against the defendant and there would be another case against the insurance company on another day. When we explained that in Georgia, the proper way to get to the insurance money is to sue defendant driver, the jury was stunned. Had they known this was the only day in court for the plaintiff, I believe the verdict would have been quite different.
The jury also had a problem with connecting the slight visible property damage to the neck surgery in light of the fact that the plaintiff got 5 surgical opinions while looking for alternative care did not have the neck surgery until 3 years after the crash. Unfortunately, the client will have to live with these realities and move forward with her life because there is no second chance at trial.
That is the way it goes with juries sometimes.
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