Sometimes, in a seemingly simple motor vehicle injury car crash case, there are two, three and even four lawyers for the defendant! There have been trials where it appears that attorney Doug Landau was being double, and even triple-teamed by the insurance companies who defense unsafe drivers in jury trials. Why is this so?
The reason that there may be several lawyers sitting at the defense counsel table is because they are working for different insurance companies, third-party administrators (TPA) or other corporations. In other words, there might be three lawyers sitting at the defense counsel table because one of them represents the liability insurance for the unsafe defendant who was maybe convicted in Traffic Court of running a red light, failing to yield the right of way, or traveling at an excessive speed. The lawyer sitting next to them might be there for the insurance company on the truck or van that the defendant was driving. The next lawyer in line for the defense may be hired by the insurance company that has the “umbrella policy” or “excess insurance” that was for coverage above and beyond the basic liability policy. Finally, the lawyer on the end of this quartet could be there representing the injured victim’s OWN insurance company. That is to say, the injured plaintiff’s own insurance coverage is greater than that of the defendant’s, so this would be considered an “underinsured motorist claim” (UIM).
Another aspect of these types of trials to note is that the jury in Virginia is not told about insurance coverages. In fact, there may be two, three or even four lawyers to this one crash, but mentioning the word “insurance” during trial can lead to a mistrial, which means that everyone has to come back and do it again from scratch many months later. This causes the plaintiff even further delay to finally having their “day in court.”
The word “insurance” is not to be mentioned in court because it is believed that it would be manifestly unfair to the injured victim if the Defendant got a “discount” on the medical bills, lost wages or other harms because the Plaintiff paid insurance premiums for car insurance, health insurance, Workers’ Compensation insurance or had an umbrella policy that they covered out of their own pocket. Why should the reckless driving defendant get the benefits of the plaintiff’s financial responsibility and many years of investment in their own protection?
Interestingly, one of the only mistrials in Mr. Landau’s entire career was in the 1990s when a witness mentioned the word “insurance” on the witness stand late in the afternoon of a jury trial in Arlington, Virginia. The Judge ruled mistrial, as the jury had been exposed to this issue, which is generally not allowed to be brought up in personal injury trials.
The mentioning of “insurance” had actually been brought up earlier in the case by the police officer and the plaintiff’s husband, but the Judge let them go since they were inadvertent and not responsive to the questions. However, late in the afternoon, a coworker, who was a paralegal/nurse at a major injury law firm where the plaintiff worked, was asked where she worked in order to give the jury an idea of her medical knowledge and her understanding of her coworker’s job duties. She responded that she had been a forensic nurse for this personal injury practice for 11 years and had also worked for seven years for a major insurance company. At that, the “third strike,” the Judge rapped the gavel and said, “We are done.” He excused the jury, and the case had to be re-tried about eight months later, back when cases were tried much more quickly, pre-pandemic.
Attorney Landau vowed he would never want to ever have a mistrial after that experience. This Judge and Landau have spoken a number of times since that trial, and Landau was not criticized for what happened, especially since a seasoned employee of a major injury firm mentioned the “I” word. The experienced Herndon trial lawyer would not hesitate to present another injury case before this excellent Arlington jurist. In the 30 years since that case, Landau has never had a mistrial in any state, county or city court. He hopes to keep that record intact.
If you or someone you know was severely injured due to no fault of your own, please give us a text/call (703-796-9555) or email us at Abrams Landau, Ltd.