State Supreme Court Affirms Verdict for Defendant in Car Accident Case

The Alaska Supreme Court recently rejected a plaintiff’s challenge to a jury’s verdict in a personal injury case that had denied the plaintiff relief and found the defendant was not operating his vehicle negligently when the accident occurred. The state high court ruled that the jury could have reasonably concluded that the accident was not the defendant’s fault and that he should not be held accountable for the injuries allegedly suffered by the plaintiff in the accident. Based on the latest appellate ruling, the plaintiff will most likely not be compensated for the injuries that she suffered in the crash.

Snowy RoadThe Defendant Slides on Ice and Crashes into the Plaintiff’s Vehicle at an Intersection

The plaintiff in the case of Marshall v. Peter was a woman who was struck from behind by the defendant’s vehicle while she was waiting to make a left-hand turn at an intersection. According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the parties agreed that the road conditions were icy at the time of the accident, and the police officers who responded to the crash cited the defendant for causing the accident by making an improper start. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant after the accident, alleging that he negligently failed to account for the road conditions and maintain a safe following distance from the plaintiff, causing the accident and her subsequent injuries.

The Jury Finds that the Defendant Was Not Negligent

After trial on the plaintiff’s claim, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant, finding that the defendant had operated his vehicle with due care considering the conditions at the time, and the accident was an unavoidable and minor result of uncontrollable conditions, rather than the defendant’s fault. In response to the verdict, the plaintiff asked the court to enter judgment in her favor notwithstanding the jury’s findings, but the trial court rejected her request. The plaintiff then appealed that ruling to the state supreme court, arguing that the defendant should be liable for the accident as a matter of law and that the jury’s verdict was unreasonable.

The Plaintiff’s Appeal Falls Short, and the Court Accepts the Jury Verdict

On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the jury’s verdict was not reasonably supported by the evidence, and the issue of liability for the accident should have been decided in her favor without the jury’s input. In part, the plaintiff argued that the finding by law enforcement that the defendant was responsible for the accident should prove his negligence as a matter of law. The court rejected the plaintiff’s arguments, ruling that a law enforcement report is not dispositive of liability for an accident. The court ultimately found that the jury’s decision was reasonable and supported by the evidence presented at trial. Notably, the court found that the defendant appeared to anticipate the road conditions and adjusted his driving as a result.

The Effect of Accident Reports in New Mexico Injury Lawsuits

As in Alaska, courts in New Mexico are not required to follow the findings of a law enforcement officer who responds to an accident and blames a driver in the police report. A police report from a New Mexico auto accident is a relevant piece of evidence that can be used to prove a party’s negligence, but a judge or jury may ultimately come to a conclusion that conflicts with the initial accident report, based on the more detailed analysis of a crash that occurs during a trial. New Mexico drivers who are injured or killed in an accident for which law enforcement finds them responsible may have a valid personal injury claim against the other driver, in spite of the accident report. Injured drivers who are partially responsible for a crash may also be able to recover damages through no-fault insurance coverage or theories of comparative negligence. Anyone injured in a New Mexico car accident should consult with an experienced attorney to discuss their case, even if responding law enforcement officers cited them after the accident.

An Experienced Trial Attorney Can Make or Break a Personal Injury Lawsuit

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a New Mexico car accident, your choice of legal counsel can significantly affect your ability to recover damages for your claim. The experienced New Mexico accident attorneys at the Fine Law Firm know how to seek compensation for your injuries, even if you were partially at fault for an accident. Our qualified New Mexico personal injury attorneys will work with the strengths of your case to pursue a fair settlement and fight through a trial if necessary. Call the New Mexico auto accident attorneys with the Fine Law Firm at (585) 989-3463 or contact us through our online form to schedule a free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Court Determines Car Accident Involving Medical Professional Is Not a “Medical Malpractice” Case, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, September 6, 2016.

State Supreme Court Awards Nearly $4 Million Verdict in Liposuction Lawsuit, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, September 21, 2016.