Insurance at Trial

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A common question by juries in a civil trial is, "How much insurance coverage is there?" Unfortunately, under our current rules, injury victims, at-fault persons, and lawyers cannot talk about insurance.

In most cases, the defendant has liability insurance coverage that will pay any judgment amount that a jury may award. Unless the defendant complains that he cannot bear the financial burden of a jury verdict, any mention of the defendant’s liability insurance is not admissible evidence.

The troubling part about this is that Arkansas law requires every driver and vehicle to be covered by liability insurance. It makes little sense that every person and every vehicle must have insurance coverage, but the law prevents mentioning that coverage is available when it actually matters — in the courtroom.

Louisiana is one state where insurance policies are admissible. In fact, Louisiana permits injury victims to bring suit directly against the insurance company, rather than the at-fault person. This type of "direct action" law requires the insurance company to do what it said it would do by taking care of the at-fault person. It also prevents the insurance company from hiding behind its insureds.

People buy insurance to be protected from unexpected events. Insurance companies should protect and stand up for their customers, rather than asking courts and legislatures to allow them to stay in the shadows. We all know we're required to have insurance, so why can't we talk about it in front of a jury?