Earlier this month, a Nebraska appellate court issued a written opinion regarding an appeal filed by a personal injury plaintiff who was awarded a zero-dollar award after a jury trial. In the case, Lowman v. State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Company, the court determined that, while a zero-dollar award normally requires clarification from the jury, in this case it was clear what the jury intended, so no clarification was necessary.
The Facts of the Case
Lowman was a passenger in a car being driven by her husband when the car was struck by an uninsured driver. The Lowmans’ uninsured motorist carrier was State Farm, so they filed a claim with the company. State Farm admitted that the uninsured driver was liable but disputed the issues of causation and damages. The case proceeded to trial on these two issues.
During the pendency of the trial, the Lowmans withdrew their claim for lost wages and admitted that all medical bills had been paid. Thus, the only claim remaining was that for her pain and suffering. At trial, Lowman’s attorney told the jury “If you think [Lowman] is exaggerating, there should be no verdict. If you think she’s a liar, a cheat and a fraud, there should be no verdict.”
The jury was then instructed by the trial court that “If the Plaintiffs have met their burden of proof, then your verdict must be for the Plaintiffs.” The jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs, but it was for zero dollars. The plaintiffs, not satisfied with the result, filed an appeal to a higher court.
The appellate court hearing the case noted that normally, a jury verdict for zero dollars is “no verdict at all” because it does not provide a clear indication of what the jury was thinking. However, the court noted that in this case the facts surrounding the case make the jury’s intent clear. Indeed, the plaintiffs’ very own attorney instructed the jury that there should be “no verdict” if they believed that the plaintiff was exaggerating or lying. The plaintiff’s attorney got what he asked for.
Damages as an Element of a Personal Injury Claim
Damages are often the most overlooked element of a personal injury claim. Often, so much emphasis is placed on proving that a party was liable in causing the accident that damages are overlooked. However, like every other element of a negligence action, damages must be pled and proven. A failure to do so may result in an inadequate damages award, as was seen above.
Have You Been Injured in a Washington, D.C. Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Washington, D.C. car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. However, merely because another party was responsible for causing the accident does not necessarily mean the case will result in substantial damages. An attorney’s assistance may prove vital to your success throughout all phases of the case, including the calculation of damages. To learn more about accident law in Maryland and Washington, D.C., and to speak with a knowledgeable attorney about your accident, call 410-654-3600 today.
More Blog Posts:
Lessor of Crane Involved in Serious Accident Found Not Liable for Plaintiff’s Injuries, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, February 16, 2016
Plaintiff’s Product Liability Case Against Rifle Manufacturer Revived on Appeal, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, March 2, 2016