Lawyers are always on the lookout for a mistake made by the court that will make it possible to appeal a verdict if that verdict is against one’s client. It’s part of the overall responsibility of the lawyer to look after the best interest of his client, after all. Nevertheless, it is sometimes difficult or even impossible to find a legitimate mistake. That doesn’t stop some lawyers from running a few perceived errors up the flag pole of the Appellate Court to see how they fly.
The Car Accident Story
In the car accident case of Hutcheson v. Daniels, 198 Ga. App. 790 (1991), the plaintiff and the defendant were both travelling the same direction down a two-lane road. Plaintiff was forced to stop her vehicle as a third driver, immediately in front of her, stopped in order to turn across the opposite lane of traffic. The defendant driver came over a hill and saw plaintiff’s stopped car, but could not stop in time to avoid a collision with the plaintiff’s vehicle.
What Happened in Court
When the plaintiff sued, the jury found in favor of the injured man.
The defendant appealed, claiming that the Trial Judge made four separate errors at trial! The defense challenged the trial judge’s handling of the defendant’s objections at trial, as well as admissions of evidence. The appellate court found that each of the “errors” were fully within the judge’s discretion and were not errors at all.
Incredibly, lawyers for the defense had asked the trial judge to instruct the jury in the ways in which the word “accident” is used and what it meant. Of course, the language the defense asked the judge to use was not totally in keeping with the language of the law. The Defense’s definition of “accident” would have left the plaintiff unable to recover. Because the defense’s definition was misleading, the judge did not include Defense’s language in his instructions to the jury. Had he done so, he would have made an error.
An Appeal Strategy That Doesn’t Work With Injury Lawsuits
In this case, lawyers for the defense were appealing on “errors” that were clearly invented or so minor as not worthy of overturning the jury’s verdict. All too often, defendants appeal, hoping that if they throw enough errors at the Appellate court, some of them will “stick.”
Most regular folks don’t have the money to appeal a verdict unless there is certainty that the trial Judge made a serious mistake. Insurance companies, on the other hand, are so well funded that even “flock shooting” such as we see in this appeal is preferable to paying out a large settlement. Does the insurance company enjoy a small “gotcha” in this process since as the plaintiff’s settlement is eroded significantly by the cost of the appellate process? Surely not!
Defending your rights following an accident can be expensive and time-consuming. On the other hand, if you don’t defend your rights in court, you might stand to spend the rest of your life in pain without adequate compensation. The answer is to find the best personal injury specialist you can – one that wins his cases – and believe that the law, as in this case, will take the correct action.