In Dabbs v. Calderon, a Texas Court of Appeals considered a case in which the defendant ran a red light and crashed into two cars. One of the passengers in one of the struck cars was pinned inside the car. When he was freed by emergency personnel, they found his leg was badly hurt. Doctors diagnosed him with a fracture in his shin bone and gave him a pain medication prescription, stabilized his leg, and discharged him. At home, his family had to cook for him and give him baths.
Three weeks later, his leg was covered in fracture blisters, and he had to stay at the hospital for five days. Six months later, he had to have a surgery, and he went to physical therapy three days a week for several months until April 2012. Later he testified that his right leg atrophied from non-use, and when he did try to use it, his foot would swell and turn blue.
The accident victim sued the woman who crashed into the two cars, claiming she negligently ran a red light because she was distracted. The woman claimed she couldn’t stop because her brakes failed.
The plaintiff testified that this affected his ability to enjoy certain activities, such as playing sports with his son. Before the accident, he’d almost finished training at Texas Barber College, but since he couldn’t stand on that leg, he couldn’t actually finish training. He also suffered other ailments unrelated to the accident and had never been able to do any work besides manual labor.
The court returned a verdict for the plaintiff, awarding him damages for medical expenses, pain, mental anguish, disfigurement, and bodily impairment. The plaintiff appealed on several grounds. Among other things, she argued there was insufficient evidence that she was negligent. The court explained that in order to win on a factual sufficiency challenge, the defendant would have to show that the evidence was so against the weight of the evidence as to be clearly wrong and unfair.
In this case, it was undisputed that the woman’s vehicle came into the intersection on a red light. The parties disagreed about why. The court found there was enough evidence to show the defendant was distracted and negligent. The defendant had said at the scene she was distracted by a child crying in her van. She also didn’t know the traffic light’s color as she approached the intersection. Her brakes had been checked a few weeks prior and were fine then. The court found there was sufficient evidence that she was negligent.
The defendant also argued there was insufficient evidence to support the damages award. Among the items of damages the defendant challenged were physical pain and mental anguish. The court had awarded the plaintiff $250,000 for past mental anguish and pain and $75,000 for future mental anguish and pain. The court explained that anguish is a very high degree of mental distress and pain.
The defendant believed $250,000 was excessive for past physical pain. The plaintiff testified that the dashboard was smashed over his right leg, and it was a pain he’d never endured in his life. The emergency first responders had rated his apparent pain a 10 and noted that he was hyperventilating. He suffered further pain from fracture blisters and a surgery attaching an external fixator to his leg. The trial court observed his scars and saw that one was eight to 10 inches long. He had a four-year-old son and felt depression because he couldn’t hold him or play sports with him.
The defendant argued that the award was excessive because he had suffered hydrocephalus since birth and therefore had never been able to drive or get a job besides manual labor. He’d also suffered other physical ailments like diverticulitis. The court noted that, while he had suffered pain from other medical conditions, the evidence showed a high degree of physical pain from the leg injury. For this and other reasons, the lower court’s judgment was affirmed.
If you’re hurt in a car accident, it is important to retain an attorney who understands the types of damages you may have suffered. The experienced San Antonio personal injury attorneys at Carabin & Shaw may be able to help you. Call our office for more information at 1-800-862-1260.