A Seattle auto accident attorney reveals secrets of the courtroom
Due to its portrayal in television and the media, public knowledge of courtroom proceedings is generally misconceived or totally unknown. Due to this misrepresentation, clients are sometimes caught off guard when their case gets to trial. When this is the case, as a Seattle personal injury attorney, I will always educate and prepare my clients, and that is my intention with this article. I’d like to address a few realities of the courtroom that people who have never been in a personal injury case may not know.
- Frivolous lawsuits never make it to trial: The notion of frivolous lawsuits is often brought up by insurance companies to convince the general public that accident victims are greedy. The fact of the matter, though, is that frivolous cases will never make it to trial. There are too many steps before going to the courtroom that will reveal a case as frivolous if it is such. Using a process called “summary judgment,” the defense can make a motion to dismiss a case based on its pleadings. A judge hears the argument, and if the case is frivolous, he or she will throw it out. The case is over at that point and will not make it to trial. Because of the way our court system works, you can be sure that if a case actually makes it to trial, then it is likely to have survived summary judgment and is not frivolous.
- “Insurance” can never be uttered in the courtroom: You may think that in a car accident or personal injury case, the word “insurance” would be a commonly used word in the courtroom. Although it is the insurance companies that are fighting the claim, in the eyes of the court, it is you against the other person involved in the accident. This rule is in place, because if a jury knows that the at-fault driver has insurance, they are likely to give the victim more money. Personally, I see this as an antiquated notion that ultimately confuses the jury and will do more harm than good. Unfortunately, my opinion doesn’t change the fact that this is a reality, and it is important for people involved in an accident case to understand this.
- A case can be decided by a jury or a judge: On television or in the movies, it is common for a courtroom to be portrayed as having a judge that guides the trial, and a jury to decide it. This is the case for some trials, but not all of them. In other cases, the judge may decide the outcome of the trial without a jury. A trial with a jury is known as a jury trial, whereas one with just a judge is known as a bench trial. Unless a side requests a jury, it will be heard as a bench trial. Usually, the request for a jury is made by the insurance company. The misconception about frivolous lawsuits and inability to mention the word “insurance,” is a big help to their case; whereas a judge has a more strict understanding of the law.
- Insurance Companies can demand an “Independent Medical Examination”: An insurance company has the right to compel you to see a doctor of their choosing to examine your injuries. It is called an “independent medical examination,” (IME) but there is nothing independent about it. These doctors make a lot of money by seeing patients that insurance companies bring them, and it is expected that they will find a way to make an argument to lower or deny your case. (Need more info about IMEs? Check out our free special report.)
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