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The lesson HBO’s “Hot Coffee” can teach jurors in accident cases

July 27, 2011 by Steven M. Gursten

Michigan personal injury attorney urges everyone to watch this documentary, which is featured at the Traverse City Film Festival today

Last week, I wrote a blog about the one thing personal injury attorneys are not allowed to tell jurors in car accident trials: that the wrongdoer’s auto insurance pays the verdict toward the injured plaintiff – not the actual individual defendant.

Juries are deliberately misled every day by defense lawyers aiming to minimize pain and suffering verdicts for car accident victims because of this Michigan evidentiary rule – which was intended as a shield but is now being used as a sword by the deep-pocked auto insurance companies.

This issue was on my mind after watching “Hot Coffee” on HBO. Hot Coffee is the documentary about the true facts behind the infamous McDonald’s coffee case, but it is also so much more. Hot Coffee will be played during the Traverse City Film Festival at 9 p.m. tonight, in the Old Town Playhouse.

Hot Coffee is a story about America’s system of justice being exploited by insurance companies that have created fake “tort reform” movements to raise profits by denying citizens and the injured access to the legal system.

I would encourage anyone sitting for jury service to watch this story.

Our system of justice exists to protect the rights of all of us, including the right to recover from harms and losses from personal injuries caused by another person’s carelessness or negligence. Our civil justice system works best when all of the people involved take it seriously. Plaintiffs, defendants, lawyers, judges, juries, and yes, even the insurance companies that are spending millions to elect slanted judges intent on dismantling the civil justice system.

You should also know that the vast majority of personal injury and auto accident cases are settled out of court. It has been my experience (and I think any personal injury attorney will tell you this), that most people who come to court do so as a last resort. They’ve waited years to get there and may have spent thousands of dollars on medical bills and living expenses; often too injured to work. These injured people are responsible for thousands of dollars in case costs because of the delay tactics used by insurance companies and how these lawsuits are aggressively defended.

If you are selected as a juror in a civil case, please take it seriously. The decisions you make will affect people’s lives and recovery for years to come.

– Photo courtesy of Creative Commons, by MG/TR


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