Texas Court Reviews Role of Jury in Car Accident Case

yield-sign-1445549Each car accident presents a unique set of facts. Some of the more common causes include driver distraction, driver intoxication, excessive speeding, and failure to observe other traffic safety laws. To determine whether an injured party is eligible to bring a personal injury claim for damages against another party, one must look at a variety of legal factors. Essentially, a plaintiff must plead and provide proof that another party was negligent and that that negligence proximately caused the plaintiff’s injuries. To ensure that you present your case in accordance with local laws, you are encouraged to contact an experienced injury attorney from the East Texas area.

Many personal injury lawsuits are presented to a jury to determine negligence and proximate cause, among other things. As part of the legal process, courts are often asked to review a jury’s findings via an appeal. In a recent case, an injured plaintiff was dissatisfied with a “take-nothing judgment” and argued that the evidence was legally and factually insufficient to support the jury’s conclusion.

Here, the plaintiff and the defendant were in a rear-end car accident. The parties were both headed west on a Texas road when they each entered the right lane in order to merge onto the Highway 360 access road. The defendant was behind the plaintiff, who started to move forward and then stopped several times. As the plaintiff started and stopped, in an attempt to merge, the defendant looked to the left and then proceeded forward and rear-ended the plaintiff. The plaintiff brought this negligence action, requesting damages for lost wages and personal injuries.

The jury was instructed on the definitions of negligence, ordinary care, and proximate cause. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury was asked whether the defendant’s negligence (if any) proximately caused the occurrence. The jury answered “no,” and the court rendered a take-nothing judgment. The plaintiff appealed, arguing that the defendant’s own admissions established that he was negligent and that his negligence proximately caused the plaintiff’s injuries. Specifically, the defendant testified that he hit the plaintiff from behind, that he was liable, that he was fully at fault, and that the plaintiff sustained damages.

The court of appeals analyzed the legal and factual sufficiency of the evidence concerning negligence. First, regarding the legal sufficiency, the court pointed out that certain testimony provides evidence that the defendant exercised ordinary care (and therefore was not driving negligently), since he checked for oncoming traffic just prior to “rear-ending” the plaintiff. Second, as to the factual sufficiency, the court pointed out that under Texas law, whether a rear-end crash raises an issue of negligence depends on the surrounding facts and circumstances of each case. Essentially, it is up to the jury to make that determination. Here, the court pointed out that while there was evidence in the record to support a finding that the defendant was negligent, there was also evidence that supported the finding that he was not.

Clearly, the jury believed the defendant’s testimony concerning the events that took place just moments before the accident and decided that he did not fail to use ordinary care. Applying the appropriate legal standard of review, the appellate court did not find this conclusion to be against the “great weight and preponderance of the evidence.”

This case nicely illustrates the great importance of preparing a sound legal case for recovery in a car accident lawsuit. Failure to do so could result in a take-nothing judgment, as was the case here. Reaching out to an experienced attorney is one of the best ways to protect yourself. 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.

Related Blog Posts:

Texas Court Affirms a “Take-Nothing” Judgment in Negligence Case

Texas Court Affirms Jury’s Findings of Proximate Cause in Truck Accident Case

Texas Supreme Court Reviews Evidence of Causation in Truck Accident Case