A jury has awarded $75,000 in damages to a plaintiff over a traffic accident in O’Fallon, a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri. Jurors based the award amount on both property damage and injuries. The accident occurred on December 17, 2008. Defendant Craig Hoelscher was driving west on Cherrywood Parc Drive in O’Fallon towards Highway K. He intended to turn left on Highway K, heading south. This required him to cross two northbound lanes and a center turning lane. Cherrywood has a stop sign at that intersection, but Highway K does not. He pulled onto Highway K at about 10 miles per hour, when his car struck the car driven by plaintiff Suzanne Mateja, who was driving in the inside northbound lane at about 40 miles per hour.
Mateja alleged a knee injury resulting from the accident. She presented an orthopedic surgeon at the trial as an expert, who testified that trauma sustained by her knee will likely lead to arthritis and permanent limitations in the movement of the knee. The defense presented their own orthopedic surgeon, who testified that a pre-existing condition known as chondromalacia, a thinning of the kneecap, caused her injury.
Hoelscher acknowledged in his testimony that he was travelling too fast to safely cross the highway. Witnesses also testified that Hoelscher’s view of Mateja’s lane was obstructed by another oncoming vehicle.
The trial lasted three days, and jurors deliberated for two hours on July 20. They returned a verdict for $75,000 against Hoelscher in favor of Mateja. The jury denied a claim from Mateja’s spouse for loss of consortium, however.
This case illustrates many of the important legal issues of a claim for damages after a car accident. Legal disputes arising from car accidents involve the theory of negligence. To prove negligence in a case such as this, a plaintiff must demonstrate to a judge or jury (1) that a driver had a duty of care to the plaintiff, (2) that the driver breached that duty, (3) that this breach caused the accident, and (4) that the plaintiff suffered injuries or damages as a result.
In this situation, Mateja proved all of these elements. All drivers have a duty to others on or near the road to drive safely. Since Hoelscher was driving at an intersection where he had a stop sign and other drivers did not, he had a higher duty of care to drivers on Highway K than normal. By entering the road at an unsafe speed, without the ability to clearly see oncoming vehicles, Hoelscher created the unsafe conditions that led directly to the accident. In hitting Mateja’s vehicle, Hoelscher also caused her injuries, or at least a jury concluded that Hoelscher is legally responsible for those injuries.
While far from perfect, this system of jury determinations of liability for injuries has proven to be a fair and effective way of resolving disputes. If you have been injured due to the negligence of another driver, the Kansas City injury attorneys at Horn Law can help you. Contact them today to schedule a free consultation.