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Recovering Compensation as a Passenger in a Texas Car Accident

In a recent Texas appellate case, a woman sued her daughter and the defendant for a car accident that happened in 2010. The case arose when the defendant’s pickup hit the front of the daughter’s pickup on the street near the boyfriend’s house. The plaintiff and her daughter’s son were in the daughter’s pickup as passengers.

The defendant had backed out of his driveway and gone halfway down the block when the daughter’s pickup hit his truck from behind. He later testified he hadn’t put his truck in reverse during the trip after backing out of the driveway and wasn’t on his phone.

The daughter claimed that after turning left onto the street where the accident happened, she saw the defendant’s truck driving down the street. He stopped, reversed, and backed up. The daughter put her car in park and honked.

At trial, the daughter testified that her mother, the plaintiff, had complained about chest pain just after the accident, and her chest was bruised. The plaintiff testified that she suffered chest pain due to her seat belt restraining her at the time of the accident. She claimed her chest didn’t hit the dashboard. An investigating officer testified that in the accident report, the daughter was wearing a seatbelt, but the mother wasn’t.

After the accident, the mother was taken to the hospital, where she complained of pain in multiple locations, including her chest. The pain was severe and stabbing, according to the mother. However, the records showed she’d reported her pain as mild. She had a broken left foot.

When she left the hospital, the plaintiff was given a boot to wear on her left foot and a pair of crutches. However, she didn’t use the wheelchair provided to take herself from the hospital to her car. She testified she wore the boot for about 3-4 months. Her chiropractor testified that his records showed she didn’t wear the boot for her first appointment.

Also, the plaintiff didn’t follow up with an orthopedic podiatrist for her foot. She claimed that she couldn’t afford it, and the doctors wouldn’t accept her without insurance or resources to pay for the appointments. However, when cross-examined, she admitted she had medical insurance that paid for her hospital visit at the accident and that she’d been under a physician’s care for high blood pressure for years. Although her son and daughter helped pay for her treatment for high blood pressure, she didn’t ask them for help in getting treatment for her injuries in the accident.

The chiropractor testified about how well the plaintiff’s final appointment went and how she said she was ready to stop treatment. He testified that she had full strength and function that most people who suffer from ankle injuries don’t have. Although she sued both her daughter and the other driver for negligence, she maintained that the daughter didn’t cause the accident and that the other driver was solely at fault. The jury ultimately awarded the woman $1,000 for physical pain and mental anguish.

The plaintiff appealed. She argued on appeal that the trial court had mistakenly admitted evidence about whether she was wearing her seatbelt at the time of the crash. She argued that the only time the non-use of a seatbelt is relevant to a car accident claim is when there’s expert testimony to show that the failure to use the seatbelt was the legal cause of the injuries. However, the defendants argued that she’d waived her right to complain about the seatbelt evidence because she had introduced it at trial through the accident report.

The appellate court explained that the law was clear that the appealing party couldn’t complain about the other side’s improper evidence being admitted if he was the one who introduced it. The record showed that the plaintiff was the one to introduce the seat belt evidence, and therefore she’d waived the error. Furthermore, the trial court hadn’t included the plaintiff in a consideration of proportionate responsibility, so the jury wasn’t allowed to consider whether her non-use of the seatbelt contributed to her injuries. On this and other points, the jury’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.

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