What Does Alabama’s Auto Accident Shield Law Mean to You?
Unless you’ve been on trial for the serious injuries you caused another driver, you may not know about Alabama’s Auto Accident Shield Law. As a defendant before a jury, the law can work in your favor, although it’s not always that clear-cut.
If you’re being sued by another driver for an accident you caused, which resulted in serious or debilitating injuries, you’re normally facing an uphill battle. However, under Alabama law, your auto liability insurance limits are inadmissible.
In other words, the jury will never hear your coverage amount mentioned, insinuated or implied by the plaintiff’s attorney, because entering the information as evidence is prohibited. And, to do so would probably force the presiding judge to declare a mistrial.
The reason for keeping your liability insurance limits from the jury at trial is simple – knowing how much they can award could result in a favorable verdict for the plaintiff. It could directly or indirectly influence the jury members to over-compensate the plaintiff,
regardless of fairness. Therefore, all information about your auto liability insurance is excluded.
Conversely, it is perfectly legal for your attorney to introduce the fact that the plaintiff’s health insurance paid a portion of their medical expenses. At trial, this is an often-used tactic by a defendant’s attorney to minimize or argue the lack of actual damage to the plaintiff, requiring no further compensation.
Although some believe not presenting a defendant’s liability insurance to a jury doesn’t influence the verdicts, studies have proven otherwise. When the evidence is kept from the jurors, they are more likely to return a verdict in favor of the defendant or be more conservative in the amount awarded to the plaintiff.
While not wanting to cause undue financial distress for the defendant, many jurors seem unaware that a negative verdict against the defendant doesn’t automatically mean they’ll be compensating the plaintiff with money out of their own pocket. That’s why you pay for auto insurance.
On the other hand, if you only carry the state liability minimum, you could find yourself in more dire financial straits, since the lower requirements are likely to fall way short of damages a plaintiff is suing you for.
This is why the growing trend among Alabama auto accident lawyers is to request bench trials rather than jury trials. Nothing changes in regards to the evidentiary standards set by the shield law. However, a judge with many years on the bench is less likely to be blinded by a defendant’s ability or lack of ability to cover the damages, and base his decision on the defendant’s insurance policy for remedy.
You don’t want to find yourself in the unenviable position of having to defend yourself at trial. Should that occur, you want to be sure your auto insurance liability can cover what you need to pay the plaintiff – up to your policy limits. Don’t assume it will never happen to you.
Check your policy so you know that your liability limits won’t cause you financial hardship in case you have a crash that is deemed your fault. It is possible to make sure that you are paying the best auto insurance rates in Alabama while still being well protected. Call USAgencies today at (800) 420-3712 to get a free auto insurance quote to learn more. You can also request your free car insurance quote online.