Georgia law generally bars a jury hearing about the presence of, or lack of, insurance in automobile accident cases. It’s grounds for a mistrial, which means that the parties have to start the trial all over again with a new jury. The reason: An automobile accident (or just about any other case) should be tried on the merits as opposed to insurance coverage, etc. As a practical matter, we all realize that insurance does play a role in cases, but still be very careful about mentioning it…EXCEPT in truck wreck cases:
The statute is O.C.G.A. § 40-1-112, and it’s referred to as “The Direct Action Statute.” We’ll save you from having to parse through all of it because it’s very long, but here are the basic parts:
(c) It shall be permissible under this part for any person having a cause of action arising under this part to join in the same action the motor carrier and the insurance carrier, whether arising in tort or contract.
FYI — We’ve put it in bold to make it a bit easier to read and, hopefully, understand for everyone.
Remember though, there are some exceptions for accidents in Georgia so let’s briefly touch on a few of them (and they may seem pretty obvious too):
“So what does this mean from a practical perspective if you’ve been injured in a trucking accident here in Georgia?” That’s a common question we get — This answer could go on forever, but let’s consider one really important point: A jury hearing about an insurance company along with the trucking company and probably the driver too helps them to understand truly the seriousness of the accident and the heightened duties for commercial carriers. It’s a lot different than a typical automobile accident case that just involves another individual. From a practical perspective, again, the insurance company and the commercial truck company are less sympathetic to a defendant(s), especially when juxtaposed to a real person that has been hurt because of their collective negligence.
A quick little legal pointer too: A jury will not get to hear about the excess carriers, i.e. if there are several levels of insurance. This situation is pretty common in truck accidents because trucking companies will have several layers of insurance coverage. For example, the mandatory minimum insurance a commercial truck must carry is $750,000 (everyday drivers just have to keep $25,000 in at-fault insurance). Oftentimes, we will see one or even two umbrella insurance policies with a range of several million dollars. If you want to read the actual case, it’s Werner Enterprises, Inc. v. Stanton, et al. 302 Ga. App. 25 (2010).
We hope you found this blog post useful, and as always, feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions about truck accidents in Georgia, but we sure hope you don’t need to because that means you or a loved one has been hurt in a wreck. Trucking accidents are complicated cases so make sure you are not alone. We’ve handled numerous truck wreck cases throughout Georgia and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or directly at (404) 566-5880.