There are some things in life you’re just happier not knowing about. More often than not, though, knowing who is pulling what strings is very useful information.
In the classic film, The Wizard of Oz, the great and powerful wizard forbids Dorothy and her friends from paying attention to the man behind the curtain. Oz hopes to conceal his real part in the drama.
A Motor Vehicle Accident Case in Georgia
Such a situation presents itself in the appellate case of Defusco v. Free, 287 Ga. App. 313.
Following a rear-end collision in which a woman is seriously injured, she sued the man driving the other vehicle asking for $60,696.03 in damages. The defendant ultimately admitted liability and the trial went forward to determine damages.
When asked under oath what she hoped the jury would do, the injured woman said she wanted “Just for the insurance to pay.”
This inadvertent reference to the fact that there actually was an insurance policy with an insurance company’s money behind it drew an immediate reaction from the trial judge and Defense Counsel. Attorney for the defense immediately called for a mistrial because of the jury may have been prejudiced by the knowledge that his defense was paid for by an insurance company. (The jury already knew of this fact since it came up when jurors were qualified, but that small technicality didn’t deter the defense).
The trial judge immediately instructed the jury that whether or not there is insurance available to pay the bill is immaterial. They were not to use this reference to liability insurance in determining their verdict. Still attorneys for the defense claimed that the jury had been irreparably prejudiced. The judge did not grant the Defendant’s motion for mistrial.
Later, the jury awarded a verdict to the plaintiff, and the defense appealed.
Georgia’s Laws on Liability Insurance
According to Georgia law, the discussion of liability insurance is understood to be prejudicial only when the adverse effect cannot be erased from the minds of the jury or its consequences cannot be avoided by proper cautionary instructions from the bench. Additionally, there must be evidence of some harm caused. The appellate court found that the trial judge did nothing wrong by exercising his discretion refusing to grant a mistrial.
When we drive a car, we are required by law to have insurance coverage. Insurance companies gleefully accept our insurance premium payments and, in return, they promise to protect us should an accident occur. In this case, the insurance company seemed to hope that the jury would forget the settlement would not come out of the defendant driver’s pocket, but from the bank account of his insurance company.
How Insurance Adjusters Really Work
Insurance adjusters and attorneys who represent giant insurance carriers have the job of keeping as much money as possible away from the victim. If necessary, they will use tiny technicalities to accomplish this or, as in this case, they will pounce upon even shadows of judicial errors. Plaintiffs are often paralyzed by their ability to afford the process of appeal.
If you have been injured through the negligence of others, don’t settle your case with a representative of the other insurance company until and unless you’ve spoken to your own lawyer. Protect your rights. Call The Millar Law Firm for a free case review today.
LEGAL DISCLAIMER: The above article is a factually-accurate case history of an actual previously litigated or settled Georgia case. The case was reported on in local media and/or legal reporting services and it was not handled by The Millar Law Firm. However, we think our current and prospective clients may find this information interesting and informative as the case is factually similar to cases our office routinely handles. Please be advised that The Millar Law Firm makes no guarantees your case will have a similar outcome, as past results of our firm or of other lawyers and law firms.