Personal injury litigation consists of many separate processes, such as pleadings, medical treatment, mediation, pre-litigation demands, and settlement negotiations. Plaintiffs may have knowledge of and even prior experience with most of these phases; jurors, however, may never know of them or how they created the end-trial for which they were sought.
In order to protect from “misuse,” some particular issues may be shielded from jurors, such as settlement offers and any statements made during settlement negotiations. Generally, this rule is meant to encourage opposing sides to resolve disputes without going to trial, as those on one side may be less willing to reach a resolution if they fear that statements made during negotiations or admissions to damages may be used against them later. This usually pertains to first-party cases in which a victim sues his/her own insurance carrier, or third-party cases in which a victim sues the at-fault party. In third-party cases, plaintiffs’ attorneys may not discuss insurance (or lack thereof), attempts made to resolve the claim, or the insurance company’s failure to reach a resolution which resulted in a jury trial.
When plaintiffs are faced with difficult burdens of proof, jurors may be led to believe that they did not attempt to reach a settlement outside of court. The best way to relieve this pressure is to allow jurors to understand the extensive pre-trial negotiations between plaintiffs, defendants, and their attorneys, despite the still-firm basis of disallowing evidence of such discussions.
There are two important things to remember:
1) Almost every case which goes to trial will already have endured a minimum of three negotiation-periods between the two sides. Plaintiffs who want to ensure fair treatment by the court should file a “pre-filing payment-demand;” after filing the lawsuit, they must then file an official settlement proposal in order to protect their own interests if the case goes to trial. Then, after a majority of the discovery phase, the sides will attempt to reach a resolution via formal mediation.
2) Plaintiffs and defendants often have an equal interest in resolving disputes without taking them to trial. When an accident was caused by one party’s negligence, paying the appropriate expenses for the victim’s injuries is usually the right thing to do. However, the at-fault party’s insurance company has a special interest in the settlement, particularly in keeping it as low as possible, and this sometimes leaves plaintiffs with no choice but to take their cases to trial.
If you ever serve on a jury for a personal injury case, remember that the plaintiff usually has no more desire to be in the courtroom than the jurors and is simply there to earn compensation for the injuries he/she sustained. Insurance carriers can be quite unreasonable and even ruthless in evaluating and defending personal injury claims, but disallowing discussion of their actions in court prevents jurors from understanding what has brought a case from negotiation phases all the way to a jury trial. What they see in the courtroom is the tip of the iceberg; they must always remember that many attempts at resolution came before, and the trial simply means that those attempts, sincere as they may have been, were unsuccessful.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, contact Mike Agruss Law for a free consultation. We are a Chicago-based injury law firm representing individuals (and their families) who have suffered an injury in an accident. We will handle your case quickly and advise you every step of the way, and we will not hesitate to go to trial for you.
Lastly, Mike Agruss Law is not paid attorney’s fees unless we win your case. Our no-fee promise is that simple. You have nothing to risk when you hire us – only the opportunity to seek justice.