Survey: Insurers Face Bias Among Potential Jurors

Updated: 4:33 p.m. EST

The insurance industry faces an uphill battle in court as a recent poll found that the majority of people hold a bias against insurers and, as jurors, would be more likely to support an individual suing a carrier.

A national telephone poll sponsored by Chicago-based DRI—Voice of the Defense Bar, an association for defense attorneys and in-house counsel, found 59 percent of respondents would be inclined to favor the individual in a lawsuit with virtually no difference between male and female respondents. Only 20 percent of respondents said they would not favor either party. A paltry 10 percent say they would favor insurance carriers, while 11 percent say they don’t know who they would favor.

“The results of our poll show two things: the fact that only 20 percent would approach their responsibilities as a juror in an objective manner means that we have a bit of public education to do on the role of a juror in the administration of justice,” says John R. Kouris, DRI executive director in a statement. “Second, while some of the demographic responses are expected, others are quite surprising.”

One of the most surprising responses was the “bias spike” that occurs among the respondents in the youngest age category, individuals 18-29. A dramatic 71 percent in that category said that they would be inclined to favor the individual over the insurance company. That is 15 percentage points higher than among all adults age 30 and over.

Not unexpected but dramatic nevertheless was the divide between liberals and conservatives on the issue of bias with 73 percent of liberals and only 50 percent of conservatives saying that they would favor the individual.

The DRI says insurers have their best chances with potential jurors who are college grads with an income in excess of $100,000. DRI says that is the only demographic surveyed in which fewer than half would be inclined toward bias in favor of the individual.

Only 48 percent in that demographic say they would favor the individual who sued, while 61 percent earning between $50,000 and $100,000 would be biased in favor of the individual who sued. That figure rises to 64 percent for those earning less than $50,000.

However, a greater percentage of those earning in excess of $100,000 do not favor the insurance company, with only 11 percent saying they would. Twenty-four percent in that income bracket say they would not favor either side and 16 percent say they don't know who they would favor.

For those in the $50,000 to $100,000 bracket, 11 percent say they would favor the insurer; 17 percent would favor neither side, and 11 percent don't know.

In the lower income bracket, $50,000 and less, 9 percent say they would favor the insurer; 18 percent say they would favor neither side, and 9 percent don't know. 

The above findings come from an independent, nonpartisan, national telephone survey conducted among a random scientific sample of adults, says DRI. The survey of 1,020 adults was done in August 2012 and initial findings were released in September. A spokesman says the general survey has now been broken down into specific industries. It was conducted by Langer Research Associates, New York.

The poll was the first of what will become an annual national opinion poll on the civil justice system, DRI says.

Update: Additional survey figures from DRI concerning the income demographic.

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