It is often said that a jury trial is about “getting to the truth,” but several facts are routinely withheld from the jury in a Tennessee personal injury trial.
- The Defendant Has Insurance or Significant Assets – In a personal injury trial, the defendant almost always has liability insurance coverage. Yet, the jury is never given this information. Instead, the jury is led to believe that the defendant will be responsible for paying the judgment out of his or her own pocket. This can cause a problem for some jurors who feel sympathy for the defendant. Rest assured, however, that the plaintiff (the person bringing the lawsuit) would not be in trial unless the defendant had insurance coverage or significant assets to pay for the judgment.
- The Plaintiff is Required to Reimburse their Health and Disability Insurance Companies – In almost all cases in which a person is injured and then uses their health insurance coverage to receive treatment, the injured party must repay the insurance company once a verdict is obtained. The same rule generally holds true for payments made by a disability insurance company. In Tennessee, the jury is not given this information and may mistakenly believe that the plaintiff receives a windfall if the jury awards damages for medical bills.
- Offers of Settlement – Typically before a case goes to trial, the parties have at least discussed the possibility of reaching a settlement agreement and most of the time settlement offers have been exchanged. These settlement discussions are inadmissible at trial. The reason for this rule is that our courts want to encourage litigants to discuss settlement and revealing these discussions to the jury may discourage meaningful settlement talks.
- Tennessee Uniform Crash Report – Most jurors expect to be told “who got the ticket” or “who was cited for being at fault.” This information is excluded from evidence at trial. The reason for its exclusion is that the jury is responsible for determining the “facts” and deciding who is “at fault.” If the jury is given a copy of the police report, they may automatically assume that it is correct and fail to consider all of the evidence.
- What the Defendant did After the Incident – If a defendant takes corrective action after someone is injured in order to prevent similar injuries in the future, this conduct is generally inadmissible at trial. For example, if the defendant fixes a loose handrail after it caused someone to fall, that would not be admissible at trial to show that the defendant was negligent for not doing it sooner.
The Tennessee Rules of Evidence are complicated and can be confusing for lay persons and even for novice attorneys. That’s why it is important to hire an experienced and skilled Tennessee trial attorney if you have been injured due to the negligence of another.
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