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Jury trials are part of the fabric of the American judicial system. The right to have one’s case decided by a jury of one’s peers is a great privilege. A jury can award substantial damages that can go far in compensating an injured person for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering caused by a negligent driver.

However, having one’s case proceed to a trial by jury in a personal injury case (or any other case, for that matter) is not without risk. After all, if the outcome was obvious to both parties, the case would probably have settled out of court.

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The primary reasoning behind the civil tort of negligence is that those who fail to act in a reasonably prudent manner should be held accountable to those hurt by their actions (or inactions).

Just as direct negligence can be used to hold a careless individual liable in court, vicarious liability (sometimes known as respondeat superior) can be used to hold an employer responsible for the conduct of an employee.

Of course, not every action by a worker amounts to liability for the company for which he or she works. A recent case explored the law in Texas with respect to this issue.

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intersectionOne of the core components of the American legal system is the right to a trial by jury. While not every civil lawsuit triggers a jury trial, those that do sometimes come with a myriad of issues that the jury must resolve.

In a car accident case, for instance, the jury may be asked to apportion fault between the respective parties, assess compensatory damages, and perhaps resolve other, case-specific issues. The appellate review of a trial court’s entry of judgment on a jury’s verdict can, therefore, be a rather complex endeavor.

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truck wreckMany issues, including proportionate responsibility (sometimes known as contributory negligence or comparative fault), can arise in a vehicle accident case. Recently, a Texas appeals court was asked to consider this issue, along with several evidentiary issues, after an accident involving an armored truck left a man with serious injuries.

The jury found in favor of the injured man, awarding him a substantial verdict. Dissatisfied with the result, the defendants appealed.

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Although any motor vehicle accident case can be contentious, those resulting from 18-wheeler wrecks are particularly so. This is because semi-truck wrecks so often result in staggering medical expenses and other damages for those who are hurt by a trucker or trucking company’s negligence.

In order to protect the sizable financial assets of those in the trucking industry, the liability insurance limits for truckers and trucking are typically much higher than those for motorists involved in more run-of-the mill car accident cases.

In other words, when a trucker or trucking company’s negligence severely hurts or kills an innocent motorist or passenger, a lot of money is at stake. That typically means a big fight and a lengthy battle, even when liability is clear.

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As any attorney who regularly represents those who have been injured or have lost loved ones due to a motor vehicle accident caused by another person’s negligence can tell you, it is very important to talk to an attorney before signing anything proffered by an insurance company. In fact, the best practice is to speak to an attorney before even talking to anyone from the defendant’s insurance company.

A recent case illustrates what can happen when this advice is not followed.

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dining roomIn some cases proceeding under Texas negligence law, the doctrine of respondeat superior can be used hold an employer vicariously liable for the tortious acts of a servant. This includes situations in which an employee’s negligent operation of an automobile results in injuries to an innocent motorist or passenger.

Of course, there are exceptions to the doctrine, and sometimes an employer is relieved of vicarious liability due to the particular circumstances of a given case.

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Only an insurance company would have the audacity to deny an injured woman’s uninsured motorist claim, fail to file an answer to the lawsuit she was forced to file in order to get the coverage for which she had paid premiums, ask the court for a new trial after it granted the woman a new trial, and then complain about the amount of time it took the woman to file suit against it in the first place.

Fortunately, an east Texas appellate court did the right thing when this exact scenario unfolded recently. It reinstated the default judgment against the insurance company, making it pay the woman the money awarded to her by the trial judge.

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calculating expensesWhen a person in injured in a car or truck wreck and incurs medical expenses, he or she must provide certain evidence of the reasonableness and necessity of these expenses in order for them to be considered by the jury at trial. Traditionally, this has been accomplished through a deposition of the plaintiff’s treating physician(s).

The Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code provides a possible shortcut for “proving up” medical expenses through an affidavit, rather than a (much more costly) expert witness deposition. However, the opposing party in a car accident case has the right to offer a counter-affidavit by a person who is qualified to testify in contravention of some or all of the matters contained in the plaintiff’s initial affidavit.

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Under the doctrine of sovereign immunity, governmental entities are immune from suit in many situations. In such cases, a person hurt by the actions of the government cannot recover monetary damages, even though, if the defendant were an individual or business, there could have been a substantial settlement or judgment.

Some argue that this rule, which was founded on an old English legal principle to the effect that “the king can do no wrong”, is antiquated and should no longer be followed. Unfortunately, however, the doctrine is alive and well in Texas.

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