Texas Appeals Court Affirms $0 Award in Car Accident Case, Even Though Parties Stipulated Liability

In most east Texas car accident cases, there are several issues that must be decided – either at trial or through an agreement between the parties. These include fault, damages for personal injury or wrongful death, and/or compensation to the plaintiff for damage to his or her automobile.

Sometimes, some of these issues are settled prior to trial, with only a single issue being considered by the jury. Such was the case with regard to a 2014 accident in which fault was admitted but the parties were unable to agree on a particular issue.

Facts of the Case

In a case (Court of Appeals for the First District of Texas; No. 01-17-00826-CV) recently considered by a Texas appellate court, the parties agreed that the defendant motorist had caused a motor vehicle accident in Harris County, Texas. All issues other than the diminution in value of the plaintiff’s automobile due to the collision caused by the defendant were settled prior to trial.

According to the plaintiff, the wreck caused his car – a Corvette Stingray LT3 that was less than six months old and had only 1800 miles on it at the time of the accident – to be worth less money after the crash, even though it was repaired (the defendant’s insurance company paid for the repair). At trial, the plaintiff testified that he had been told that he would likely “take about a $10,000 hit” on his vehicle’s trade-in value due to the vehicle’s accident history. The defendant’s expert witness testified that the loss in vehicle value was between $1000 and $4000.

The jury awarded $0 to the plaintiff. He asked for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict and/or a new trial, but these motions were denied. He appealed.

Decision of the Appeals Court

The court of appeals affirmed the lower court’s ruling. The plaintiff’s primary argument on appeal was that there was no evidence at trial to support the jury’s determination that the diminution in value of his Corvette was $0, insomuch as both the plaintiff and the defendant’s expert witness presented evidence that it equaled a higher amount. The court, however, pointed out that the jury was not bound by the witnesses’ figures; rather, the jury was free to determine a different amount of damages based on the evidence presented by the parties and their own knowledge and experience.

The same is true in cases involving personal injury. While the plaintiff and defendant may each have their own value of the case, the jury is not bound to accept either parties’ dollar figure for the compensation owed the plaintiff for his or her medical expenses, lost earnings, or pain and suffering. Rather, the jury members may use their own personal knowledge and experience in making this determination, so long as their ultimate decision is not “against the great weight and preponderance of the evidence” when reviewed by the court.

Speak to an East Texas Car Accident Attorney

If you or a loved one has suffered physical injuries in an east Texas automobile accident, you need to talk to an attorney as soon as possible. Because there are so many potential issues in a car wreck case, the best course of action is to get an early start on the investigation and litigation so as to maximize the odds that the plaintiff will receive a fair settlement or judgment. Insurance companies work hard to minimize payouts in accident cases, especially those involving personal injury or wrongful death. To schedule an appointment, call Earl Drott Law at 903-531-9300. We handle cases throughout east Texas, including Tyler and Smith County.

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