Parties to a personal injury lawsuit may agree to settle the claims for a variety of reasons. By agreeing to settle, the parties clearly avoid the prospect of presenting their case to a jury, as well as an unknown result. And in most instances, settling matters serves to shorten the duration of the case, and this can save the parties time and money. But plenty of car and truck accident cases are brought to a jury for their determination. It may not always be in a plaintiff’s best interests to settle a claim. In order to determine the ideal strategy for your particular negligence case, you are strongly encouraged to consult with an experienced injury attorney from the local East Texas area.
If your case does go to trial, it is important to understand the jury’s role and the relative weight given to their ultimate findings. During a trial, members of the jury are the parties responsible for weighing the facts and determining the credibility of witnesses and parties. The manner in which an appeals court reviews the lower court findings depends in part on the type of challenge set forth. In a recent truck accident case, the plaintiffs appealed a “take-nothing” judgment in a lawsuit against another driver.
Here, the plaintiffs (Jose Rangel – the driver and Juan Carlos Argundis-Ramirez – the passenger) alleged that they were stopped at a red light when they were hit in the rear by another truck. While Argundis-Ramirez testified that he did not see the people in the truck that hit them, Rangel testified that he saw men in the vehicle. He claimed that the men ran away from the accident after trying to re-start their truck. The plaintiffs brought this personal injury action against the driver (allegedly identified as Jose Alvaro Rivera) for injuries they claimed to have sustained as a result of the collision. However, at trial, the plaintiff failed to unequivocally identify Rivera as the driver, although Rangel did testify that he looked very much like the driver.
According to the police report of the accident, Rivera was the registered owner of the truck, but the report listed the driver involved in the accident as “unknown.” Furthermore, Rivera denied that he was driving the truck at the time of the accident. He claimed to have sold the vehicle a few days earlier. At trial, the jury was asked whether the negligence, if any, of Rivera proximately caused the accident. The jury responded no. Based on the jury’s finding, the trial court entered a “take-nothing” judgment. The plaintiffs appealed, arguing that the evidence is factually insufficient to support the jury’s finding.
The court of appeals pointed out that Texas case law governs the standard of review of a factual sufficiency challenge. In such a case, the party must establish that the finding is so contrary to the weight of the evidence as to be clearly wrong and unfair. The court found that it was not. According to the court, Rangel’s testimony that Rivera looked similar to the driver and that he was the registered owner of the truck did not prove that he was the driver. The court ultimately affirmed the take-nothing judgment, upholding the jury’s review and interpretation of the evidence.
Here, the court deferred to the jury’s role to weigh the factors presented to them at trial. In any car or truck accident case, it is important to understand all aspects of the proceedings, from the filing of a complaint to the ramifications of a jury trial. Seeking the guidance of an experienced injury attorney is vital. Earl Drott is an injury attorney with more than 25 years of experience representing victims in auto accident cases in the East Texas area. For a free consultation, call (903) 531-9300.
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