The Texas Rules of Civil Procedure set forth the parties’ responsibilities with respect to filing a civil lawsuit in the state. Civil suits include complaints for damages in a negligence or personal injury action arising from a car or other vehicle accident. One of the initial requirements concerns the commencement of the suit or the filing of a complaint as well as the other party’s response or answer. Once a plaintiff files the lawsuit and serves the other party with the documents, the “defendant” is required to file a response. In some cases, the defendant fails to respond, and courts are authorized to issue a “default judgment” in the plaintiff’s favor if a court deems it warranted. To be sure that your car accident claim is filed correctly in accordance with local laws and procedures, you are encouraged to contact an experienced East Texas injury attorney as soon as possible.
In a recent negligence case, the court ultimately reversed a plaintiff’s damages award for failing to provide the proper evidence on the record. Here, the plaintiff brought an action against the defendant and his employer for injuries she allegedly sustained in a motor vehicle accident. According to the complaint, the plaintiff asserted that the defendant was driving a truck (owned by his employer) and following behind her too closely when he struck her vehicle three times. The suit alleged that the defendant was negligent and grossly negligent for failing to keep a reasonable and clear distance from her car, turn to avoid the collision, and apply his brakes in a prudent and timely manner.
The defendants failed to respond to the complaint. The plaintiff filed a motion for a default judgment and attached an affidavit detailing the accident and listing associated costs, such as medical bills and lost wages, as well as pain and suffering damages. At the court hearing, the plaintiff waived the making of a “reporter’s record.” The court granted the plaintiff’s default judgment, awarded $21,390 for her negligence claim and $60,000 in exemplary damages, and held the defendants jointly and severally liable for the total judgment.
The defendants filed a “restricted appeal,” which is an opportunity to correct an erroneous judgment and is available to parties who failed to participate at trial. As part of their appeal, the defendants argued that the “face of the record” did not provide sufficient evidence to support the court’s award of damages. The court of appeals agreed, pointing out that the record failed to contain an affidavit that supports the plaintiff’s claim for medical costs in accordance with the Texas Civil Practice Code. Texas law requires a plaintiff who seeks a default judgment to prove the amount of damages, as well as the “causal nexus” between the accident and the injuries or damages. The court pointed out that the record contains no evidence of actual damages, among other things. Therefore, the court reversed the lower court’s decision regarding the award of damages against both defendants (as well as other rulings) and remanded the case back to the trial court for additional proceedings.
This case nicely illustrates the importance of adhering to local procedural and substantive laws applicable to car accident lawsuits. An experienced attorney who handles motor vehicle accident cases on a day-to-day basis would be able to navigate the legal system with an eye to achieving the best possible recovery in your case. 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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