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Insurance Company’s Scheme to Hide Evidence of Intoxication from Jury Foiled!

Published December 20, 2017 by Bruce Millar
Insurance Company’s Scheme to Hide Evidence of Intoxication from Jury Foiled!

Even if you have never testified in a courtroom, you have probably heard the oath administered to witnesses just the same. In all of its various forms, the courtroom oath is meant to ensure that the witness will “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?” Given that, have you ever wondered how much truth is too much information?

Keeping Silent About Negligence in the Court Room

In our judicial system, particularly in civil matters, it occasionally happens that one side or the other hopes to have the jury remain blissfully ignorant of some key information. Usually these omissions have something to do with how the jury might perceive the actions of the parties involved. Here is one example.

A Negligent Driver that Died in the Accident

An uninsured motorist, recklessly taking the lives of others into his drunken hands is driving 70 mph in a 35 mph speed zone. His vehicle collides with a vehicle carrying five people. The drunken driver is killed, leaving the injured others to sue his estate for their injuries in two separate actions.

While the decedent was not covered by automobile insurance, he had other insurance that did, in fact, cover the accident. That insurance carrier defended the drunken driver’s estate. They did not dispute that their insured was at fault and accepted liability for injuries.

In the course two trials held to establish the amount of damages caused to the two plaintiffs, the defense made the motion that the trial courts not allow evidence of the decedent’s intoxication be given to the jury. (His blood alcohol level was in excess of .25 grams, far over the legal limit.)

The Awarded Compensation

The court denied this motion, believing the level of intoxication to be an important factor in the accident.

When the jury found in favor of the two plaintiff passengers, it awarded the amounts of $95,000 and $60,000 for compensation of damages. The plaintiffs did not seek punitive damages.

Shelter Mut. Ins. Co. v. Bryant, 220 Ga. App. 526 (1996)

The insurance carrier appealed, Shelter Mut. Ins. Co. v. Bryant, 220 Ga. App. 526 (1996), alleging that the trial courts were mistaken in allowing the juries to hear the evidence of intoxication as it caused the jury to be “unduly prejudicial.”

Fortunately for the plaintiffs, the Georgia Court of Appeals did not agree that evidence of the driver’s intoxication was irrelevant. The verdicts were upheld.

It is the duty of the defendant’s attorneys to try to keep payments for damages as low as possible even when they do admit liability. In this case, it’s likely that defense lawyers knew that the blood alcohol information might excite and agitate the jury. They might allow higher damages for pain and suffering if the ‘whole truth’ were known to them. As it all worked out, justice was served in spite of the defense’s attempt to keep the entire truth from the jury.

Why Hire a Personal Injury Specialist After an Accident

The law can be complicated in the way it must always protect the interests of all parties. That’s why people who have been injured by the negligence or recklessness of others need a personal injury specialist to handle their case. Lawyers who spend their days in pursuit of real estate law or even criminal law don’t always know the subtle ins and outs of the law as it applies to personal injury.

If you think you have a case, call the specialists at The Millar Law Firm. We’ll be happy to review the facts and let you know how to proceed. We can help you find the way to real justice.

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