The largest companies in the world are insurance companies. Want proof? When AIG was on the brink of failing, a joint session of Congress and a Republican President, in a bi-partisan show of unity, determined that a government bailout was the only viable solution as "AIG was simply too big to be permitted to fail."
When the twin towers, two of the largest buildings ever erected on this earth, were demolished by terrorists, the insurance claims all were paid without a single insurance company suffering even so much as a blip on their profit and loss statement.
Insurance companies are so rich that they have single handedly branded, through the blasting of their message continuously in all media forums, the idea that claims brought for auto accidents and doctor malpractice are largely based on fraud, and not viable injury claims. This notion has taken hold and is a poison that must be contended with in every case brought before a jury in the United States. Regardless of the massive injuries to my client and the willful negligence of the at-fault party, there is always the phase of the trial where I have to justify to a naturally skeptical jury why this is not one those "many fraudulent cases WE KNOW are out there" and that our client has a right to bring her case into court.
These insurance companies are so powerful that with their substantial lobbying money they have successfully lobbied state and federal legislators to impose caps on damages in nearly every venue because, after all, we wouldn't want the catastrophically injured to score a "windfall" in the courtroom for their destroyed lives.
With that amount of wealth and power, you can imagine the force behind these companies when they dig in their heels and resist paying a reasonable claim. They can afford the best attorneys on the planet. They can afford to embroil a plaintiff's lawyer in mindless legal maneuvering and pleadings. They can afford the most eloquent expert witnesses. They can bankroll focus groups, and employ every social scientist interested in jury research in the United States.
In fact, when an insurance company throws their weight and money behind the task of unreasonably denying an insurance claim, there is only one great equalizer. Time and time again, this equalizer makes it a fair fight. The great equalizer is the JURY.
THE GREAT EQUALIZER:
In Colorado state courts, a jury for a civil case (which is any case that is seeking money recovery), is comprised of only 6 people. When a jury of citizens is placed in this position of tremendous respect and civic responsibility, there is an amazing strength and power that can emanate from this most venerable tribunal.
Juries in civil cases have the power to regulate the community standard for acceptable conduct. For instance, they have the ability to change the way car companies risk lives with shoddy designs. Take, for instance, the juries empanelled to examine Ford Motor Company misconduct with the Pinto of the 1970's. Their message was loud and clear by their large civil verdicts against Ford, and they single-handedly changed the safety standards for all the world's auto makers, ultimately saving thousands of lives.
The jury is truly the last great equalizer to the money, lobbying and insurance company shenanigans that occur in every case where a man in a pin-striped three piece suit stands up and says "I'm the attorney for the Defendant in this motor vehicle accident." In fact, even that little display of "sleight of hand" is best described as the insurance company "pulling one over" on everyone.
Fact is, there is a rule of evidence that keeps juries in Colorado from every being told that the kindly looking gentleman sitting next to the at-fault defendant in an auto accident negligence case, is a paid for insurance company lawyer playing the role as the lawyer for Mr. Defendant. Colorado Rules of Evidence #411 does not permit the jury to know who is paying the defense and who really is going to have to pay the injury verdict. But in truth, it is always the insurance company who pays, not the defendant himself.
These insurance companies can afford to send you to insurance company doctors, thereby permitting less than scrupulous doctors to create justifications for the insurance company's misconduct. They can afford to hire insurance company lawyers, who disguise themselves as "the lawyer for Mr. Defendant," instead of who they really are: the lawyer for the insurance company.
But, in the light of day, when the chickens come home to roost, all the shenanigans are played out in front of the most powerful civil tribunal ever created, the Colorado civil jury. It because of the jury that the playing field becomes even and the masks come off. Because of these wonderful citizens, this is the one place where justice is served.
Time and time again, I have watched smart and empowered jurors do the right thing and send powerful messages from our corner of the world to these corporate giants. The message is: we will not let companies and people needlessly endanger our public; when you come before us, the jury, we will not give safety violations a pass in our community. It is for that reason that juries are the great equalizer.
We at Anderson, Hemmat & McQuinn thank those of you who have honorably served as a juror in our community. For it is you who have the daunting and real task of holding insurance companies responsible to those people who have been injured as the result of someone else's negligence. No doubt about it, Colorado is a better place to live and raise a family when juries hold insurance companies and the people they insure responsible for injuries they cause.