Federal Rules of Evidence – Rule 411
(through July 14, 2022)
You cannot use whether someone has liability insurance to prove wrongful conduct, but proving other stuff, like ownership, control, motive, or bias is okay.
Evidence that a person was or was not insured against liability is not admissible to prove whether the person acted negligently or otherwise wrongfully. But the court may admit this evidence for another purpose, such as proving a witness’s bias or prejudice or proving agency, ownership, or control.
Selected Committee Notes
The courts have with substantial unanimity rejected evidence of liability insurance for the purpose of proving fault, and absence of liability insurance as proof of lack of fault. At best the inference of fault from the fact of insurance coverage is a tenuous one, as is its converse. More important, no doubt, has been the feeling that knowledge of the presence or absence of liability insurance would induce juries to decide cases on improper grounds. McCormick §168; Annot., 4 A.L.R.2d 761. The rule is drafted in broad terms so as to include contributory negligence or other fault of a plaintiff as well as fault of a defendant.
The second sentence points out the limits of the rule, using well established illustrations. Id.
For similar rules see Uniform Rule 54; California Evidence Code §1155; Kansas Code of Civil Procedure §60–454; New Jersey Evidence Rule 54.