There are a TON of misconceptions when it comes to lawsuits. Car accident lawsuits are no exception. Here’s a few I’ve gotten lately:
“The at fault driver’s insurance company paid for my car. That means that they’ve accepted liability.”
It’s seems counterintuitive, but the insurance company may decide to fight your case on liability – even if they’ve already repaired your car (or paid for it if it was totaled).
Why would they do this?
- If your car is totaled, you will likely be racking up rental car expenses. If the other driver is held liable, and the expenses were reasonable, the insurance company would be on the hook for these.
- You can get attorney’s fees awarded in property damage cases.
- It’s a business decision for the insurance company.
“Well, the jury will be able to easily decide liability once they find out how much the insurance company paid for my car.”
That would be true if the jury is allowed to know if there is insurance in the case. In most cases under Oklahoma law, juries are not allowed to know if a defendant has insurance.
This can obviously make things frustrating for jurors. There are car accident cases tried before a jury that are limited to damages only (basically the insurance company values the claim lower than what the plaintiff does). In this case, liability is not an issue. In cases like this it’s common for the property damage to have already been settled.
If you like to read our state statutes, take a look at 36 O.S. §6091 and 12 O.S. §2411:
36 O.S. §6091:
No settlement made under a motor vehicle liability insurance policy of a claim against any insured thereunder arising from any accident or other event insured against shall be construed as an admission of liability by the insured, or the insurer’s recognition of such liability, with respect to any other claim arising from the same accident or event and no testimony with respect to such settlement shall be admissible in evidence with respect to any other such claim.
36 O.S. §6091:
Evidence of the existence of liability insurance is not admissible upon the issue of negligence or wrongful action. This section does not require the exclusion of evidence of liability insurance where the question of possession of liability insurance is itself an element of the action, or when offered for another purpose, including proof of agency, ownership, control, bias or prejudice of a witness.
Guess what happens if the jury asks if the car has been repaired or if the driver has car insurance?
They aren’t allowed to know. They are instructed to look at the issue (damages). In reality, nearly all car accident cases involve car insurance. The defense lawyers (and their medical experts) are all paid by the insurance company on the case.
What happens if the jury asks if the plaintiff has health insurance?
They still won’t get to know. A lot of people don’t want to give a plaintiff “double the amount.” BUT, if a personal injury plaintiff’s medical bills have been paid by their health insurance company, and he/she gets a settlement or verdict, those payments will generally need to be repaid to the health insurance company.