There are some things the jury should not know when deciding on your case. If it is information that is irrelevant, they don’t need to know. Attorney Ben Schwartz answers a viewer’s question regarding her personal injury case in this video.
Hi, I am Attorney Ben Schwartz,
Today we are going to take a question from a viewer, Carol in Maryland. She says I was recently serving on a jury, and I was picked to be on a personal injury case. It was a little bit difficult to figure out how much to award the plaintiff because we never heard what she was going to do with the money. Carol says, don’t you think the jury should find out where the money is going to go and what the plaintiff is going to use it for? And the answer is, “I do not know.” You know, I never really thought about it before, to be completely honest with you.
There are as many cases as there are, and there are different reasons why. There are different reasons why people bring cases. A lot of times people bring cases because they are getting jerked around by the insurance companies after an auto accident and they go to a lawyer to find out about their legal rights. There is not always a master plan for what the plaintiff is going to do with the money that the jury awards. You know I have had cases where the plaintiffs will use the money that the jury awards to set it aside to use it for health care costs in the future. I have had cases where they have set it aside to use it for education cost to put their kid through college. I have had situations where people have used the money that they have gotten from personal injury settlements to buy a new car, to buy a new house. I have had situations where people were so far in debt, by the time they got their settlement that they just used their settlement money to pay off debts. I have had cases you know where the money goes for all sorts of different things. I think that the reason we do not explain to the jury what the plaintiff is going to do with the money is that it is not really relevant admissible evidence. It’s not really relevant to the issues under consideration in a personal injury trial.
So for example, if you are a juror in a personal injury trial the judge wants you to make a decision as to liability. Was the defendant negligent? Did the causation, did negligence cause injuries, nature and the extent of injuries, and what is fair compensation for the person who sustained those injuries? What they are going to do with the money is not really relevant to the nature and extent of the injuries or what fair compensation would be for that loss. So that is why I think we do not tell jurors that information.
I do want to say, I thought this was a very insightful question. I thought it was a very good question. It sorta got me thinking and raised some topics in my mind about things we do not tell jurors. You have to realize from my perspective, I have been practicing law, and I have been litigating cases for you know almost twenty years at this point. I got admitted in 2001 to practice law in Delaware, and from my perspective, I think that there were things when I was a new attorney that I found surprising about how things work. But now it has sort of been so long and it is engrained that it seems normal to me. But I just kind of took a couple of minutes to think back through things that I used to find sort of surprising when I was a new attorney.
Some things that we do not tell jurors that I used to feel was kind of strange, sort of still feel kind of strange is, we do not tell jurors about prior bad acts or prior crimes. So, if I am suing someone, let’s say I am suing a drunk driver who ran a stop sign and smashed into my client. That drunk driver was on his fifth DUI. I may not be able to tell the jury about the four prior DUIs. The reason is because in a case for compensation in a personal injury case where we are seeking compensation, where we are seeking compensation, those prior drunk driving convictions are not really relevant and they may so cloud the minds of the jurors to make them no longer objective and the judge does not want to have the jury make decisions from a place where they are prejudiced against that defendant because he has got an illness or a drinking problem.
Another thing is subsequent remedial measures. Let us say that you slip and fall on someone’s property due to a defect in the property, there is a great big pothole. As soon as they find out that you fell, they go out and fill the pothole. The fact that they filled the pothole is not likely to be admissible evidence at trial in the personal injury case against them. And the reason for that is that we have a rule that says subsequent remedial measures are not admissible to prove negligence. We do not want to stop them from filling in the pothole because they feel like it might be used against them at trial
Insurance coverage, one of the things that people tell me they find very surprising is they are on a jury in you know they serve as a juror in a personal injury or wrongful death case, and they never hear about how much insurance coverage the defendant has or whether the defendant has insurance coverage in the first place. And it is something that we just do not tell jurors about.
So, there is sort of a laundry list, I could go on, there is sort of a laundry list of things we do not tell jurors. Some of it seems very strange, and some of it seems very common sense to me. I would like to know what you think. Let me know, send me an email, or give me a comment on this video. Let me know what you think, and I am attorney Ben Schwartz. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. This has been another episode of ten with Ben.
Thanks for watching!