TAMPA, FLORIDA — Florida-based personal injury firm Morgan & Morgan is getting heat from defense attorneys about a television ad airing in nine states that reveals information regarding banned testimony in car crashes.
In the commercial, firm partner and attorney Matt Morgan says he is “going to tell (the viewers) something that insurance companies don’t want you to know. In almost all our car crash cases, the person who caused the crash has insurance. But the jury is never allowed to know. I don’t think that’s fair.”
The ad goes on to explain that the jury might feel sorry for the at-fault driver because they think they will have to pay. But the insurance company pays for the driver’s lawyers, court costs and the verdict.
Car crashes are big business in court cases in Florida each year. The state has some 16 million drivers on the road and averages 200,000 accidents annually, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
Georgia’s Civil Defense Bar is circulating an email among defense attorneys complaining the ad may cross the line into jury tampering by violating the evidentiary rules governing what information jurors can hear, the Daily Report reported. Georgia’s Defense Lawyer Association declined to comment.
Georgia, like most states and the federal courts, prohibits a jury from learning whether a person has liability insurance.
Florida’s nonjoinder statute protects the insurer as well. The statute forbids the plaintiff to state in any way that the defendant carries liability insurance and is thus personally protected against judgment.
The Florida Defense Lawyers Association is aware of the ad, but as a matter of policy will not comment on advertisements, a spokesperson said.
Morgan & Morgan has no plans to take the ad down and stands firm on its message.
“We at Morgan & Morgan feel that people who have been in car accidents shouldn’t be misled by insurance companies looking to avoid compensating them, they deserve to know the facts. We’re proud of the ad and hope that those who have been the victim of an accident know that there is hope for them to get justice,” Brandon R. Scheele, a civil trial lawyer who practices at Morgan & Morgan’s Tampa office, said in a news release.
The Florida Bar reviewed and approved in August at least 11 ads submitted for approval by Morgan & Morgan, including the “Now You Know” ad.
“The bar reviews ads solely for compliance with Florida lawyer advertising rules and not any ethics or legal issues,” Francine Walker, a Florida Bar spokesperson, told the Florida Record.
In a letter to Morgan & Morgan, the Florida Bar writes “It is bar staff’s opinion that the television advertisements comply with Rules 4-7.11 through 4-7.15 and 4-7.18 (b) (2) Rules Regulating the Florida Bar.”
“This advisory staff opinion addresses only compliance with these rules. It does not address any unlicensed practice of law, legal or ethics issues that may be present,” the letter continued.