Texas Court Should Not Have Allowed Jury to Attribute a Percentage of Fault to the Weather or Road Conditions in a Car Accident Trial

In an east Texas car accident trial, the jury is given a set of instructions by which it is to decide the issues of the case. While some of the instructions are considered “boilerplate” and used in many cases, the particular facts of a certain accident may result in a more unique instruction tailored especially for that case.

Such an instruction can be subject to appellate review, as can other decisions made by a trial court during the litigation and trial of a vehicular accident claim. Of course, the trial court is afforded a certain amount of leeway, such that not every error will result in a reversal of the outcome of the matter on appeal.

However, if the trial court is found to have abused the relatively broad discretion granted it with regard to matters such as instructions to a jury – or questions submitted for the jury’s consideration – a reversal is quite possible. In such a situation, it is likely that a retrial will be necessary unless, of course, the parties manage to settle their dispute based on the appellate tribunal’s ruling.

Facts of the Case

In a recent automobile accident case reviewed on appeal, the plaintiff was a man who was injured in an automobile accident that occurred on a Texas highway on a rainy night. According to the defendant driver, the collision happened after he hit a large puddle, hydroplaned, and spun into a vehicle in which the plaintiff was riding as a passenger. The defendant insisted that he was driving “reasonably due to the conditions and the weather” and that the weather – not him – was to blame for the accident. The case was tried to a jury, which answered “yes” to a question as to whether the defendant was negligent but went to assign only 25% of the cause of the accident to the defendant and 75% to the “weather/road conditions.” Accordingly, the jury’s $8350 damages award was reduced by 75% to only $2087.50. The plaintiff appealed.

The Result on Appeal

The Texas Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s order entering judgment upon the jury’s verdict and remanded the case for a new trial. In so holding, the court noted that the jury had not made a finding that the accident had been proximately caused by the acts or omissions of more than one person. Thus, it had been reversible error for the trial court to give the jury a charge that allowed them to find a “percentage of the negligence” to be attributable to someone other than the named defendant. “Weather/road conditions” was not a person, nor a party to the lawsuit, and should not have been an entity to which negligence could be assigned by the jury. Rather, consideration of the weather and the conditions of the road should have been subsumed within the question of whether the defendant acted negligently under the circumstances.

To Schedule a Car Accident Case Review

If you have a claim against a negligent motorist who caused an accident that resulted in serious personal injuries or wrongful death, east Texas car accident attorney Earl Drott is here to help. To schedule an appointment to discuss your car, truck, or motorcycle accident case, call us at 903-531-9300. There is no charge for the case review, so please do not put off talking to an attorney. Failure to comply with the filing deadlines established under Texas law can result in your case being dismissed, so please take timely legal action in your case.

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