In New Mexico, in order to prove a case against a negligent driver, the plaintiff must show four main elements. Simply stated, these are: duty, breach, causation, and damages. The most often overlooked element of a negligence claim, surprisingly, is the damages element. However, it is also one of the most vital.
Establishing that a defendant was at fault for an accident is a meaningless exercise unless there is something to be obtained as a result. In many cases, the injuries will speak for themselves. However, in other cases the injuries may be internal. Perhaps the stress and anguish of having been put through a traumatic event exists, or else the loss of companionship a family member experiences when a loved one is hospitalized for months on end. In any case, it is very important to a suit’s overall viability to be able to pinpoint what the damages were.
Recent Case Results in Zero Dollar Award for Plaintiff
Earlier this month, an appellate court in Nebraska upheld a jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff that consisted of zero dollars. In the case, Lowman v. State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Company, the plaintiff was injured as a result of an accident with an underinsured motorist. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the underinsured motorist, which resulted in the plaintiff receiving some compensation; due to the low policy limit, it failed to cover the costs of any pain and suffering caused by the accident.
The plaintiff then filed a claim against his own insurance company, seeking compensation for the injuries that were above and beyond those received from the other driver’s insurance company. This was permissible because the plaintiff had underinsured motorist insurance on their policy.
However, while the insurance company admitted that the other driver was liable for the accident, it contested that the accident was the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. The case went to trial to determine causation and damages.
At trial, the jury found that the defendant was liable for the accident; however, the jury awarded the plaintiff zero dollars as an award amount. The appellate court noted that, while the general rule is that a finding of liability accompanied by a zero-dollar verdict is vague and must be corrected, in this case it was permissible. The court pointed to the fact that the plaintiff’s attorney told the jurors that “If you think [the plaintiff] is exaggerating, there should be no verdict. If you think she’s a liar, a cheat and a fraud, there should be no verdict.” As a result, the plaintiff is stuck with the zero-dollar verdict.
Have You Been Involved in a Serious New Mexico Car Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been involved in a serious New Mexico car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation to help make you whole again. Being involved in a serious accident is a traumatic and life-changing experience. With the help of one of the dedicated personal injury attorneys at the Fine Law Firm, you may be able to obtain the compensation you deserve. With decades of combined experience, the skilled advocates at the Fine Law Firm know what it takes to be successful for their clients. Call 505-889-FINE to schedule your free consultation today.
More Blog Posts:
State Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Accident Victims Injured at Gas Station Walk-Up Window, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, March 1, 2016.
Appellate Court Affirms Denial of Plaintiff’s Medical Malpractice Claim Based on Lack of Expert Witness Testimony, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, February 22, 2016.