In a recent Texas appellate case, a plaintiff appealed the denial of her motion for a new trial after an adverse jury verdict. The plaintiff was a lawyer who was hurt in a car accident when her car was hit by the defendant’s car.
The plaintiff’s body and head were jerked forward, but the seatbelt held her back. She didn’t think she was hurt and continued her daily activities. Later in the day, she got a headache, and a doctor at an ER saw her. Since her primary complaints were a cough and back pain, she was diagnosed with an infection and back strain and prescribed pain meds.
Three weeks later, she saw a chiropractor. At the first visit, she completed a questionnaire showing she didn’t feel pain immediately after an accident. At the time of her visit, she had numerous pains, breathing difficulties, and headaches, and she was diagnosed with various types of sprains or strains. She was treated by the chiropractor for three months and referred for an MRI. Her knee didn’t show structural damage.
The plaintiff sued the other driver for negligence, asking for past lost earnings, past pain and suffering, and past medical bills, among other things. The case went to trial, and the jury found the defendant’s negligence was the legal cause of the accident.
Damages were awarded for various losses but not for past physical impairment and past loss of earning capacity. The plaintiff appealed on the grounds that the verdict on damages was factually and legally insufficient.
The appellate court reviewed the decision for an abuse of discretion. The test for legal sufficiency was whether the submitted evidence would allow reasonable people to reach the verdict being reviewed. The court explained that establishing causation required a plaintiff to prove the defendant’s actions caused an event, resulting in the plaintiff suffering injuries that could be compensated.
The plaintiff argued that she’d submitted proof of $4,661.50 in medical expenses, but the jury only awarded $1,246.69. She presented an affidavit from the medical provider showing it hadn’t been paid but had the right to be paid the $4,661.50.
The court explained that a jury could have concluded that she failed to show the accident actually caused $4,661.50 in medical bills. The evidence showed she didn’t have immediate physical pain and went somewhere after the accident. She’d been diagnosed with an infection, cough, and back pain the next day, but she didn’t go to a chiropractor until three weeks after the accident. She didn’t submit the treating chiropractor’s testimony, submitting a non-treating chiropractor’s testimony instead.
The court also pointed to conflicting evidence about whether the plaintiff’s accident had caused lost income. The plaintiff was self-employed and didn’t have to work a traditional schedule. She testified that she’d lost certain office hours, but she also testified she’d scheduled her treatments at times when she was less busy and went back to work afterward.
She’d paid a friend to handle certain hearings for her, denied bond reduction clients from whom she could have earned $4,500 in legal fees, and not gone to a hearing for which she’d planned to charge $10,000. She didn’t, however, submit evidence of a slip to show she missed work to go to appointments. The jury could have concluded that the plaintiff missed work after the accident due to her infection rather than the accident.
The appellate court also found that physical impairment wasn’t defined for the jury. The appellate court explained that the evidence to support her claim had to be more than pain and suffering and lost wages, and all the plaintiff used to support the impairment claim was lost wages. The trial court’s judgment was affirmed.
If you are hurt in a car accident, the experienced San Antonio attorneys at Carabin & Shaw may be able to represent you and develop a sound strategy for handling your case. Call our office for more information at 1-800-862-1260.