Johnson / Jensen LLP

Johnson / Jensen LLP

Posted on August 6, 2015

The “I” Word

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Posted on August 6, 2015 by

JJ-Blog-Tripartite

Insurance plays a huge role in what we do. As we work to get a financial recovery for our clients, over 99% of the time, that’s only going to happen if insurance is involved. Therefore it warrants a footnote discussion in understanding why that is—the significance of insurance, what it means for us and for our clients, and why we can’t say the “I” word in the courtroom.

The tripartite relationship

Let’s say I’m driving my car, and I hit you. You call your insurance company, and they appoint a lawyer to handle your case. This relationship between you, your insurance company, and the newly appointed lawyer is known as a tripartite relationship.

This relationship is important for both practical and strategic reasons. When in court, others do not know what company your insurance is through, or that you have insurance at all. They only see you and the lawyer—not the third point in your triangle. Which leads us to what we affectionately call, the “I” word.

The “I” word

Under Indiana’s rules of evidence, the jury is not allowed to know about the third person (the insurance company). We are not even allowed say the word “insurance” except in limited situations because of this rule. The rationale for the rule is that there is a belief that if a jury knows the financial situation of the defendant, their decision could possibly be swayed due to sympathy (or lack thereof).

We can however begin to discuss insurance if the defendant opens the door and is first to say the name of their insurance company. Once it’s out there, it’s fair game. Insurance can also be brought to the table if the defendant tries to mislead the jury by exaggerating their financial situation. For example, if the defendant were to say they would go bankrupt when they in fact do have insurance.

How we handle these circumstances

Knowing the limitations and regulations concerning insurance, we know that we have to stay sharp and be on our toes at all times. We are always looking to see if the defendant ever opens the door by making false statements or identifying their insurance company. We also do our best to select a sharp and savvy jury, capable of using common sense and making decisions on the evidence presented to them.