What Are Questions of Fact in Texas Law, and How Do They Work in Personal Injury Cases?
When accidents happen because of someone's mistake, it's very rare for the wrongdoer to admit fault. In part, this is caused by a genuine dispute as to who did what in the accident. However, many, if not most defendants are reluctant to admit fault simply because they want to escape the punishment accepting it would require. This leads to lying, conflicting stories, and accusations that the plaintiff isn't really hurt as badly as they claim to be.
In light of this, how are we to know who is truly at fault for an accident? The answer is that it's up to a jury. The legal process is designed to find out what happened and, ultimately, when the two parties can't agree to certain basic facts, a group of twelve strangers gets to decide for them. This process is often long and typically quite cumbersome, but the truth is what we're after, and ultimately juries decide who is telling the truth.
Questions Answered on This Page:
- What are questions of fact in a personal injury case?
- What decides questions of fact under Texas law?
- What is the difference between questions of law and questions of fact?
What Kinds of Controversies Create Questions of Fact?
Let's say that you come home and your computer has been dropped on the floor. You have two kids, and both claim the other did it. Clearly, the computer didn't just fall on the floor on its own, so it is likely that one of your kids is telling the truth. That, at its core, is how fact questions work in lawsuits. There is evidence that seems to indicate X, but also evidence that it's actually Y.
In injury cases, there are always controversies over key facts about what happened. For example:
- One witness said the light was green when the truck came through the intersection and hit you, while you are 100% certain that YOU had the green light.
- A few of a bar's employees claim that it never over-serves patrons alcohol, but others say it happens all the time. In a dram shop case, the resolution of this fact dispute would directly affect whether the bar would be permitted to avoid liability through the Safe Harbor Defense.
- In a workplace accident, you allege that you were hurt by what you consider a faulty step in the store you worked in, whereas your boss claims he saw you hurt yourself on purpose.
In each of the above examples, a jury will have to decide which testimony it finds more credible. Anytime there is any statement or other evidence counteracting a claim, it becomes a question of fact. Even if 100 priests swear on a stack of Bibles that you ran a red light and you caused your accident, so long as you claim otherwise, it will have to go to the jury to decide.
What are some of the Questions of Fact that a jury has to decide?
Here are some examples of the kinds of questions that the jury answers:
- Was the plaintiff injured and to what extent?
- Should the defendant be made to pay the plaintiff?
- Who did what in the accident?
- Who was telling the truth and who was lying?
- What is the amount that should be awarded?
- Does the defendant deserve extra punishment in order to be taught a lesson?
- How should fault be divided between the parties?
As you can see, these don't include questions like "Who has the right to sue?" and "How should certain laws be interpreted?" These are questions of law, which only a judge can answer.
Why this matters.
It's no secret that most cases never go to trial. However, every personal injury case has the possibility of being dismissed from court before it can even reach the settlement stage required before going before a jury. Courts allow defendants to file motions for summary judgment that, in essence, make the case to the judge: "They don't have any evidence and their case should be dismissed."
This isn't necessarily a bad outcome in every case. If there's nothing more than a scintilla of evidence the defendant was at fault, there IS no reason for a jury to waste its time re-litigating the obvious.
To avoid having your case thrown out on summary judgment and succeed at trial, you need a team of attorneys on your side with the legal acumen needed to interview every witness, subpoena every document and shred of evidence from the other side, and construct a narrative of what happened that lends credence to your case. At Grossman Law Offices, we've been doing just that for almost thirty years, and we're ready to put our experience to work for you.
If you've been hurt or lost a loved one due to someone else's negligence, make sure you call us today. We're here to help at (855) 326-0000.
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