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The success of a Texas personal injury lawsuit relies heavily on the evidence that the parties present. A plaintiff that fails to present evidence establishing the defendant’s negligence is unlikely to receive damages for their injuries. In some instances, plaintiffs are unable to present compelling and relevant proof because the evidence is unavailable. When dealing with potentially relevant evidence, both parties have a duty to ensure that such evidence is preserved and available for trial.

Spoliation occurs when a party fails to preserve or destroys relevant evidence. Trial courts must remedy such conduct because spoliation deprives the fact finder of critical evidence. Some common behaviors that may lead to spoliation are when the offending party destroys video footage, forges or alters safety documents, or tampers with witness statements.

Although Texas does not identify a specific tort for spoliation, the offending party may face other sanctions, including a spoliation jury instruction. In Texas, a judge may give the jury an instruction to make an adverse inference against the offending party. Courts have recognized that a spoliation instruction may unfairly impact a jury’s verdict. In response, the Supreme Court of Texas clarified how to address claims of spoliation and impose remedies.

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Car accidents often result in accident victims sustaining major injuries, necessitating significant and ongoing medical treatment. Given the escalating costs of medical care, this treatment is incredibly expensive, and often reaches tens of thousands of dollars, even for what may initially seem to be minor injuries. Of course, most motorists who cause an accident do not have that kind of money available to compensate an accident victim. Thus, the availability of insurance is a critical component of almost all Texas car accident cases.

In Texas, all motorists are required to maintain insurance on their vehicles. There are several types of Texas car insurance; however, only some are required by law. Texas motorists must obtain the following coverage:

  • Bodily injury liability coverage: $30,000 per person/$60,000 per accident
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A Texas appeals court recently issued an opinion addressing whether pharmacies owe third parties a duty of care when an accident occurs because of a pharmacy’s negligence. Two sets of plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against a Texas Walgreens after they negligently gave a customer the wrong prescription. Evidently, Walgreens gave the customer a diabetes medication that can cause a drop in blood pressure, which is often associated with behavioral changes and cognitive impairments. The customer was on the drug when he began driving erratically and caused a fatal Texas car accident. The customer’s son settled a wrongful death lawsuit with Walgreens. The two other victims’ representatives sued Walgreens, alleging that the pharmacy was negligent under third party liability and negligence per se. Walgreens moved to dismiss the case, arguing that pharmacies do not owe third parties a duty of care and that negligence per se does not apply. The lower court found in favor of Walgreens, and the plaintiffs appealed to the Texas Supreme Court.

Generally, under Texas law, pharmacy malpractice is a type of medical malpractice that occurs because of a negligent pharmacist or pharmacy technician. Texas pharmacy errors can have severe and even fatal consequences. Pharmacy errors can cause overdoses, congenital disabilities, allergic reactions, and even death. This can occur when a pharmacy provides a patient with the wrong prescription, fills an incorrect dosage, or fails to provide counseling. When the injury victim is the pharmacy’s customer, establishing liability is relatively straight-forward. Challenges arise in cases where the victim is a third-party that suffered injuries by another party that acted negligently because of a pharmacy error.

Generally, under Texas law, healthcare providers are not liable to a third-party non-patient when that person suffers injuries because of the misdiagnosis or treatment of the healthcare provider’s patient. Typically, pharmacists fall under the purview of healthcare providers; however, there are some instances, such as merely filing an existing prescription, that do not rise to the level of a healthcare provider.

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When an individual is injured in a Texas car accident, they can incur serious financial costs as a result of doctor’s visits, lost wages, and surgeries. In a perfect world, the victim will receive monetary compensation for their injuries if they were caused by another person’s negligence, either from the at-fault party or from their insurance company. However, sometimes, the costs incurred from an accident are far more than the at-fault driver can cover, especially if they are uninsured or underinsured.

Unfortunately, it is estimated that over 2 million drivers do not have any liability insurance, although Texas requires it for all drivers. Under Texas car insurance law, insurance companies are required to offer drivers uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, also known as UM and UIM. This coverage protects individuals who are injured in an accident where the responsible party either does not have insurance or does not have enough insurance to fully cover the damage. However, the amount an individual receives from UM/UIM coverage depends on the coverage limit, and there may still be times when this is still not enough to cover all of the costs of an accident.

Texas law allows accident victims in some cases to “stack” their UM/UIM limits from separate policies if they have coverage on more than one vehicle. For example, a family may decide to purchase UM/UIM insurance for two vehicles with coverage of up to $25,000 per vehicle. If one family member is injured in a crash with a negligent uninsured or underinsured driver, resulting in medical bills of $50,000, their UM/UIM coverage will only cover half of that. However, if the insurance policies allow stacking, the coverage from the second, uninvolved vehicle could also be used, adding an additional $25,000 to fully cover the $50,000 in damage. This can only happen if the two vehicles are covered under separate policies, however, rather than one.

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The Supreme Court of Texas recently released an opinion addressing the state’s recreational use statute (RUS) and governmental immunity laws after a plaintiff sued the University of Texas at Austin for negligence. The plaintiff filed a personal injury claim against the University after an employee struck her with a University-owned car while she was riding her bike. The woman suffered various injuries, including bruises, fractures, and facial cuts. The employee admitted that his view was partially blocked, and he failed to see the biker. However, the school argued that it was not liable based on the RUS and Tort Claims Act (TCA).

Historically, citizens could not sue governmental entities for any injuries they suffered because of the government or their agent’s negligence. However, the TCA partially waives Texas’s sovereign immunity in specific cases. The TCA allows individuals to sue governmental agencies if, the government employee was acting within the scope of their employment, the claim was filed within the statute of limitations, and the at-fault party was not acting in response to an emergency.

The RUS provides that landowners who make their property available for recreational use owe only a limited duty of care to those who use their land. Property owners in these cases must only refrain from acting grossly negligently or intentionally injuring people who use their land for recreational use. Texas broadly defines “recreational use,” as any activity that is related to “enjoying the outdoors.” This includes activities such as, camping, biking, water activities, hunting, fishing, using a swing set, and golfing. Landowners can only assert this defense if they do not charge a fee or if they meet specific monetary guidelines. If a landowner charges a fee, they cannot benefit from the RUS unless the total payments they collected the previous year were less than 20 times the property tax. In instances where the RUS intersects with the TCA, plaintiffs must establish that the governmental entity was grossly negligent, acted maliciously, or in bad faith.

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Texas is mourning after the untimely deaths of NFL player Cedric Benson and his passenger, a University of Texas graduate. According to news reports the player’s motorcycle collided with a white minivan on an Austin, Texas highway. Witnesses state that good samaritans and bystanders offered assistance before Texas fire and emergency services arrived at the scene. Representatives at the Austin police department said that they would comment after reviewing witness footage of the accident.

Tragic Texas motorcycle accidents are often the result of some wrongdoing, and the victims and their families are entitled to recourse. Under the Texas Wrongful Death Statute, plaintiffs can assert a claim if the death was a result of the “wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness” of an individual or entity. Some common instances where a wrongful death lawsuit may be appropriate are in drunk or distracted driving accidents, truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, and medical malpractice cases. Filing this type of claim is appropriate regardless of whether the state pursues criminal charges against the culpable party.

Texas law only permits specific individuals to commence a wrongful death statute on behalf of their loved one. Parents, spouses and children of the deceased individual may file a wrongful death claim. These parties can file the lawsuit individually or as a group. Texas considers adult and fully adopted children eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Children that are fully and legally adopted may not file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of their biological parent. Unfortunately, Texas law does not permit siblings to file a wrongful death claim.

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Texas personal injury victims not only have to prove that a defendant is liable for their injuries but also the extent of the victim’s damages. In a recent personal injury case on appeal, the court considered the standards for awarding certain damages under Texas law, and whether the $2.8 million award could stand.

In that case, another truck crashed into the plaintiff’s truck. The plaintiff filed a negligence claim against the driver and his employer, a trucking company. The crash caused the plaintiff back injuries, requiring him to undergo back surgery and causing him continuing pain. The case went to trial and the jury found in favor of the plaintiff and awarded him over $2.8 million in damages. The jury awarded damages in the amounts of: $150,000 for past physical pain, $120,000 for past mental anguish, $94,243 for past medical expenses, $200,000 for past physical impairment, $1,000 for past disfigurement, $15,000 for past lost wages, $1 million for future physical pain, $140,000 for future mental anguish, and $1.1 million for future physical impairment.

On appeal before a federal appeals court, the defendants argued there was no support for the future mental anguish award and that the future pain award was excessive. The court first considered which standards applied. Federal law in the jurisdiction allows a verdict at 150% of the highest inflation-adjusted recovery in a published decision involving comparable facts. In contrast, Texas does not use a maximum recovery rule, and instead looks at whether the evidence would allow a reasonable, fair-minded jury to come to reach the verdict that the jury reached. However, in a case that is “so factually insufficient or so against the great weight and preponderance of the evidence as to be manifestly unjust,” strong deference to the jury’s verdict is not necessary.

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Experts agree that seat belts help save lives. And it is common knowledge that drivers and passengers should always wear their seat belts regardless of the length of the trip. However, what is less known is that the seat belt defense may allow a defendant in a Texas car accident case to use an accident victim’s failure to wear a seat belt against them.

The seat belt defense is really an interpretation of the rules of evidence, specifically, whether evidence of the plaintiff’s failure to wear a seat belt is admissible. For the most part, only relevant evidence is admissible. Most states do not allow defendants to use the seat belt defense, because they consider such evidence irrelevant. Specifically, these jurisdictions determined that whether a person is wearing a seat belt has nothing to do with whether the defendant negligently caused the accident.

Of course, defendants naturally want to introduce seat belt non-use evidence to argue that the plaintiff is responsible for their injuries, and that they should not be on the hook for damages that the plaintiff could have prevented. And, in a 2015 case, for the first time, the Texas Supreme Court held that seat belt non-use evidence was admissible, reversing a long line of decisions.

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Recently, the Supreme Court of Texas issued an opinion stemming from a wrongful death lawsuit brought against the City of Killeen, Texas (the “City”). According to the court’s opinion, the victims died after striking an un-barricaded dirt mound on an unlit road in the City. The victims’ relatives filed a lawsuit against the city, alleging that the dirt mound was a “special defect” on the City’s property.

Generally, under the theory of sovereign immunity, governments cannot be sued by their citizens based on a tort claim. However, the Texas Tort Claims Act (TTCA) allows citizens to sue the government in specific situations. The TTCA enables personal injury lawsuits based on two grounds. First, when a citizen suffers property damage, personal injury, or death from a Texas employee’s use or operation of a motor vehicle during their scope of employment. And second, if personal injury or death occurs because of a condition or use of personal or real government property.

To succeed on the second ground, the TTCA breaks down the claim into two additional classes: special and premise defects. Special defects, such as the one that was alleged in the above case, are conditions created by the government. These are conditions such as excavations and construction sites. Premises defect lawsuits often mirror typical personal injury lawsuits such as slip and fall cases. Unlike special defect lawsuits, premises liability lawsuit requires the defendant to have actual knowledge of the defect.

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A Texas appeals court recently considered a wrongful death case in which a Texas man was killed in an accident on the job. The man was involved in a single-vehicle accident involving a 1987 Freightliner, and died shortly after the accident occurred. The man was acting within the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident. The employer was a nonsubscriber under the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act, and the plaintiff, the man’s husband, filed suit against the defendant for negligence and gross negligence. The employer argued that it was not liable because the man was intoxicated at the time of the accident. After a hearing, a trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the employer.

Under the Texas summary judgment standard, the party moving for summary judgment has the burden to prove that there is no genuine issue of material fact on at least one essential issue and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. If the moving party succeeds in satisfying its burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to show that an issue or evidence should preclude summary judgment. In addition, all motions for summary judgment must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.

On appeal, the plaintiff argued that summary judgment should not have been granted because there were genuine issues of material fact concerning whether the man was legally intoxicated when the accident occurred. In support of its defense, the employer submitted an autopsy report and a toxicology report. The autopsy report showed that there was amphetamine, methamphetamine, and fentanyl in the man’s blood when he died. A doctor’s report stated that the amount found reflected a “voluntary introduction” of the drugs.