In California, the topic of insurance coverage holds a paradoxical position in personal injury litigation. While insurance policies often dictate the financial parameters for settlements and case valuations before trial, mentioning them in court is prohibited. Specifically, California Evidence Code Section 1155 provides that: "Evidence that a person was, at the time a harm was suffered by another, insured wholly or partially against loss arising from liability for that harm is inadmissible to prove negligence or other wrongdoing."
The rationale behind this rule is straightforward: Jurors should base their decisions solely on the merits of the case, rather than on whether or not a defendant has insurance coverage. Introducing insurance into the equation could influence a jury to award higher damages, not because the case merits such an award, but simply because there's a perception that an insurance company can absorb the cost. This can undermine the fairness and impartiality that the legal system aims to maintain.
Therefore, the rule serves as a protective measure to preserve the integrity of the trial. It ensures that the jury's focus remains on the actual facts presented and the liabilities that should be legitimately established. For instance, questions of negligence, the severity of injuries, and the circumstances of the accident are the variables that should matter in determining the outcome, not whether the defendant has an insurance policy that could cover the damages.
Now, what happens if this rule is violated? Mentioning insurance coverage during trial proceedings could trigger a mistrial. In layman's terms, a mistrial essentially means that the entire process start anew. Not only is this time-consuming, but it also imposes additional emotional and financial burdens on both parties. For the plaintiff, it means a longer wait for a resolution. For the defendant, it can entail escalating legal costs and continued stress.
In summary, while insurance plays an influential role behind the scenes in personal injury cases, its mention is strictly off-limits during trial as per California Evidence Code Section 1155. This prohibition exists to keep the focus on the facts of the case and the laws applicable, rather than distracting the jury with information about insurance coverage. Violating this rule can result in a mistrial, leading to delays and increased costs for all parties involved. Therefore, it's crucial for lawyers and their clients to be acutely aware of this limitation as they prepare for trial.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an auto accident, contact Phillips & Associates for a free consultation today. You will immediately be put in touch with John Phillips or Patrick DiFilippo, who can help determine whether you have a case and advise you on the best course of action moving forward.