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.
Facts of the Case
In the recently decided case of Greenwood Motor Lines, Inc. v. Bush, the plaintiff was a woman who was severely injured after her vehicle was struck from behind by a tractor-trailer owned by the defendant trucking company and driven by the defendant trucker. The woman filed suit against the trucking company and trucker, asserting claims of negligence, negligence per se, and gross negligence. The trucking company answered that the accident was caused by the plaintiff’s own negligence and that the collision was an unavoidable accident or the result of a sudden emergency.
The case proceeded to trial and resulted in a jury verdict in excess of $4 million in the plaintiff’s favor. The defendants appealed.
Decision of the Court of Appeals
The court affirmed the lower court’s entry of judgment on the jury’s verdict, rejecting the trucking company’s argument that the trial court had committed several reversible errors. The court first recited the lay testimony supporting the jury’s finding of liability to the effect that the plaintiff was traveling along I-20 in the evening hours when the trucker struck her vehicle from behind, causing her vehicle to flip multiple times. Although there were household goods in the bed of the plaintiff’s pickup and a tarp covering them, both the plaintiff and the trucker testified that there was nothing obscuring the pickup’s taillights at the time of the crash. The court also noted that the trucker was “pulling doubles” (two 28-feet trailers) at the time of the wreck, even though his only training regarding doubles was “how to connect them.” The trucker had also been involved in two prior accidents in which he had rear-ended other vehicles.
Although the defendants complained on appeal that the trucker was denied a jury of his peers, the court found that the trucker’s failure to object to any particular juror on the panel that tried the case resulted in a presumption that he was afforded a fair and impartial jury, even though he may have preferred to have had some of the excluded jurors on the panel instead. As to the defendants’ argument that the trial court abused its discretion in admitting the police report and the testimony of the officer who responded to the crash, as well as the testimony of an accident reconstructionist, the court found that the police officer’s report was admissible under Texas Rule of Evidence 803(8) unless it showed a lack of trustworthiness, which it did not. The court further opined that there was no analytical gap between the data and the opinions proffered by the officer and that thus her testimony was admissible. Considering the reconstructionist’s qualifications and the evidence’s support of his testimony, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in allowing his testimony.
The court also sided with the plaintiff on the remaining issues, disagreeing with the defendants that it was an error to admit the trucking company’s preventability assessments concerning the trucker’s previous accidents (holding that the statements were admissible as “admissions by a party opponent” under Texas Rule of Evidence 801(e)(2)) or to allow the jury to hear allegations of its net worth (the court found that this issue had not been preserved for review because no timely objection was made to these statements at trial).
Need Advice from an Experienced East Texas Car Accident Lawyer?
If you or a loved one has been hurt by a negligent trucker or trucking company, you do not have to fight for justice alone. Seasoned East Texas truck accident attorney Earl Drott knows the many evasive maneuvers that trucking industry insurance companies use in order to delay or severely limit an accident victim’s financial recovery following a serious accident. For a free consultation, call us at (903) 531-9300. You will not owe us an attorney fee unless we recover money damages on your behalf, so there is no reason to put off this important call.
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