California Court of Appeals Upholds Jury Decision in Low Speed Car Accident Case

The California Court of Appeals decided to uphold a jury verdict awarding a plaintiff $2, 175.27 for medical expenses and no damages for pain and suffering, in a case where she was seeking between $40,000 and $60,000.

The case, Sievers v. Hill, Cal. Ct. App., 3rd Dist. (2014), arose out of an accident when two young women leaving their high school collided. The defendant, Hill, accidentally accelerated her car at a red light, believing that it had turned green, and thus ran into the back of the plaintiff Sievers’ jeep.

Following the verdict, Sievers moved for a new trial, claiming inadequate damages and prejudice from the failure to remove a certain juror. The trial court denied the motion.

In determining whether a new trial is proper, the court looks at whether “after weighing the evidence the court is convinced from the entire record, including reasonable inferences therefrom, that the court or jury clearly should have reached a different verdict or decision” [emphasis added]. Thus, it must be abundantly clear, objectively, that the jury should have reached a different result.

An award just for medical expenses, or even a little bit less, is not a sufficient reason to find that the judgment was inadequate as a matter of law. This is especially true in cases where it is unclear whether the plaintiff suffered a substantial injury, whether medical treatment was provided as a result of the injuries incurred in the accident, or whether such medical treatment was reasonable or necessary.

In this case, the defendant’s accident reconstruction expert testified that the speed at which the car was traveling at the time of impact was somewhere around 8-10 miles per hour. Regarding the plaintiff’s injuries, expert testimony provided by the defense argued that her injuries did not persist past a certain date, and that subsequent pain was likely attributable to an underlying condition or subsequent traumatic event. The plaintiff had not complained of persistent pain at various doctors’ appointments for different issues, and she had continued playing soccer throughout the time she claimed to have back pain once at trial.

Although the defense’s evidence is not definitive as a matter of law, it is up to the jury as a fact finder to decide whether they accept the defense’s or the plaintiff’s version of the facts based on the evidence presented at trial. Therefore, in this case it appeared that the jury agreed with the defense’s version of the facts, namely that the persistent back issue was not attributable to the collision, and this belief is what led to the lower damages award amount. Regarding the claim that a certain juror should have been removed, the court did not find that the juror’s continued presence was prejudicial to the determination of the case. Therefore, the judgment was affirmed.

If you have been injured in a car accident, it is important to understand your rights so that you can ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. The lawyers at Sharifi Firm, APC have significant experience in handling car accident cases throughout California.  If you have been involved in a car accident, contact us today for a free consultation. We can be reached through this website, or by calling (866) 422-7222.

More Blog Posts:

California Court of Appeals Upholds Jury Award in Three-Car Accident, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, published February 20, 2015

California Court of Appeal Sides with Insurer in High Speed Car Accident Case, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, published February 13, 2015

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