WELL THAT DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE … OR DOES IT?
I like to talk about my cases with my non-lawyer friends and family. I love getting their thoughts and ideas. I can’t count how many times I’ve said to myself “wow, I would never have thought of that” or “I wouldn’t have thought that was important.”
Invariably, I’ll get asked questions by these very smart non-lawyer friends and family. For instance they will ask “who got the ticket” or “what does the video from the cameras at the intersection show?” Another popular questions is “how much insurance does the person who caused this crash have?” When I tell them “you know what, the jury will never know who got the ticket or how much insurance there is” their responses are generally “no way, that can’t be right” to “wait, what?!” But, it’s true.
In Nevada, the opinion of the investigating police officer as to who is at fault is not admissible at trial. Evidence of citation is also not admissible. The Nevada Supreme Court long ago in a case called Frias v. Valle ruled that citations and officer opinions cannot be introduced as evidence. It is the jury’s job to determine fault in the courtroom, not the officers. Moreover, the officer wasn’t there to witnesses the crash and is essentially basing some of his opinions on hearsay.
I don’t completely disagree with this rule. The officer’s testimony would carry so much weight that the jury may not listen to anything else. And, officers get it wrong. They are human. That said, maybe the better route would be to let the officer testify as to who he or she found at fault, and then instruct the jury that the officer’s opinion is not binding and that the jury is to consider all of the evidence.
A big misconception is that those traffic cameras at intersections are recording. They are not. They are simply live feeds to the NDOT to allow them monitor traffic conditions. There is currently one company I am aware of that is however recording some of the footage from various cameras around town. I have used this service in the past to try and find video of crashes my clients were involved in. Unfortunately, those specific intersections weren’t being recorded or the cameras were trained in the wrong direction.
If you are a juror on a case, you will almost never hear the word insurance uttered in court. Why? Because evidence of insurance is inadmissible. Whether a person had car insurance, let alone how much in coverage, cannot be admitted into evidence. This, even though the attorney who is representing the at fault party is either an employee of the insurance company or is being paid by the insurance company, the insurance company has paid all of the costs (often times into the tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars) associated
with the litigation and the insurance company will pay any judgment that is entered.
There are exceptions to this rule but they are very rarely used. In fact, in my 26 years of practice I can’t think of a single instance where evidence of insurance was allowed.
Again, this is a rule I see the logic behind. The insurance company isn’t on trial- the Plaintiff cannot sue the Defendant’s insurance company and has to sue the Defendant. And if a jury knew there was insurance or much insurance there was that could sway its opinion on how much to enter a verdict for. That said, it is unfair for the jury to be left to believe that the individual Defendant is footing the bill for the attorney, the expert fees, other costs and eventually the verdict. If the jury believes the Defendant is going to have to pay out of pocket for all of the injuries he or she caused it may not want to value the Plaintiff’s injuries, harms, and losses at their true, full value.
So, if you are ever on a jury and don’t hear an attorney ask an police officer “so, who did you give the ticket to?” Or you don’t see video of the crash or hear a word about insurance it isn’t because the Plaintiff or his or her lawyer doesn’t want you to see it or hear about it. It’s because the law prevents it.