Verdict of $31.7M to Injured Motorist in Truck Accident Suit Reversed on Appeal; Case Now Headed for Retrial in Texas

Big rigs, semis, and 18-wheelers can cause devastating personal injuries and even wrongful death in a truck accident. It only takes a few seconds for a trucker’s inattention or negligent conduct to cause a crash that can forever devastate those who are in his or her path.

Fortunately, truckers and the trucking outfits that employ them usually have sizable liability insurance limits, such that the plaintiff’s medical expenses, lost earnings, and other damages can be taken care of. Of course, just because such coverage exists does not automatically mean that the insurance company will be willing to pay out even a dime without a fight.

An experienced east Texas truck accident litigation attorney can help the accident victim and his or her family understand their legal rights and help them fight for what is right. It is important that those who have been hurt by a careless or reckless truck driver speak to counsel as soon as possible after an accident; you can bet the insurance company will have someone on the scene within a short time, but that person (or, more likely, that team of professionals) will only be looking out for the insurance company’s bottom line, not for what’s right for the injured person.

The Facts of the Case

In a recent case arising from a collision between a semi-truck and a pick-up truck in Ore City, Texas, the plaintiff sought fair compensation for injuries that he allegedly sustained when the defendant trucker drifted into the plaintiff’s lane and caused a collision. The trucker’s dash cam showed that he took his hands off of the wheel, which resulted in the semi going into the plaintiff’s lane and the 18-wheeler striking the pickup’s right rear bumper and fender area. After the accident, the truck driver was cited for speeding and administered a drug test, which showed that he had been under the influence of marijuana, amphetamines, and methamphetamine. The defendant trucking company terminated the trucker from his employment because, at the time of the accident, he was “on probation” with the company because of a prior incident.

The case was tried to a jury, which ruled in the plaintiff’s favor and awarded him $26,311,337.09 in actual damages, as well as exemplary damages in the
amount of $5,371,674.18 against the trucking company and $50,000 against the trucker. The defendants appealed.

The Appellate Tribunal’s Decision on the Issues

The Court of Appeals for the Twelfth Court of Appeals District at Tyler, Texas, reversed the trial court’s judgment and remanded the case for a new trial. The defendants had several arguments for the reversal of the judgment entered against them, including the insufficiency of the evidence of their alleged liability and the excessiveness of the verdict against them. Although the court disagreed with the defendants’ contention that the evidence failed to support the jury’s conclusion that the trucking company was independently negligent under the plaintiff’s direct liability theories (negligent hiring, training, supervision, retention, and entrustment) and that the plaintiff had suffered a compensable injury as a result, the court sided with the defendants on the question of whether the damages awarded by the trial court were excessive.

In so holding, the court pointed out that the plaintiff told the officer who investigated the accident that he was unhurt and felt fine and that the plaintiff was able to drive his vehicle away from the collision and continue on his way to the luncheon to which he had been en route at the time of the crash. Although the plaintiff did later seek medical treatment for injuries he allegedly suffered in the accident, the reviewing court opined that the jury’s $24M award for noneconomic damages was based on evidence that was “relatively sparse and highly contested.” Given the relatively minor impact of the collision, the reviewing court was of the opinion that most of the jury’s award was based upon its disapproval of the trucking company rather than on true consideration of what the plaintiff was due in reasonable compensation of his injuries.

To Speak to a Seasoned Car Accident Attorney About Filing a Claim

When it comes to the litigation of a car or truck accident lawsuit, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff. This means that he or she is tasked with convincing the jury, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant was at fault in the accident and that the plaintiff suffered serious physical injuries as a proximate result of the accident. Investigating the accident, gathering the evidence, and litigating the case in front of the jury takes considerable time, effort, and skill. If you need an attorney’s help on an east Texas car or truck accident case, Earl Drott Law is here to help. Call us at 903-531-9300 to talk to a member of our legal team about putting our 34 years of personal injury experience to work in your case.

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