When someone is seriously injured in an accident, whether it be a car accident, a slip and fall accident, or at the hands of a medical professional, the injured person is often left with no other option but to sue the at-fault party for damages.
If and when that case goes to trial before a jury, those jurors might feel like they are stuck between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, they want to make sure that the plaintiff is properly compensated for their injuries. On the other, they would hate to see the defending party lose their house or their life savings, and go bankrupt trying to pay a judgment.
Fortunately for those jurors, and what many people in general do not know, is that in the vast majority of cases, there is an insurance company funding the defence of the defendant and to pay any judgement awarded by a jury to the plaintiff.
In other words, there is an insurance policy available to pay out any such judgement in all but the smallest minority of cases. The actual defendant, therefore (whether it be the at-fault driver in a car accident, the owner of a store in a slip and fall, or the doctor in a medical malpractice case), pays nothing but their deductible.
The following are but a few examples: in any car accident, with very few exceptions, the at fault party’s insurance company will fund their defence and paid any judgement found owing to a plaintiff. In any slip and fall case, for example whether at someone’s home, someone’s store, or on a municipal sidewalk, there will be an insurance company to pay the claim, whether it be a home insurance company, a commercial liability policy, or a municipal insurance policy. Doctors are protected and defended by the incredibly well-funded Canadian Medical Protective Association.
These insurance policies exist because insurance is often required as part of doing business regardless of the particular area or industry. For example, you cannot drive a car without a valid car insurance policy. You cannot own a home without a valid home-owners insurance policy. If you run a store, you will have an insurance policy to cover many potential events, including personal injury claims. Doctors, chiropractors, lawyers, and accountants, to name a few professions, all have to have insurance policies as part of doing business to protect them in the event they make mistakes.
The ironic thing is that when these cases go to trial, the law prevents jurors in a particular trial from being told whether or not there is an insurance policy in place for the defendant. The result is that juro rs are left to guess whether the defendant will have to pay any claim personally or whether they will have an insurance company to pay any such claim for them. One rationale for this law (which reflects our rather conservative values as Canadians) is that this will prevent jurors from awarding higher levels of damages since they know an insurance company is there to pay the claim. In practice, however, the opposite can occur. In other words, the jury awards too little because they do not want to bankrupt (at least in their minds) the defendant.