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Illinois Judges Can Override Unfair Jury Verdicts In Personal Injury Cases

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In a recent Illinois auto accident case, a jury returned a verdict that was completely unsupported by the evidence. In an unusual move, the appellate court overruled the trial judge and the jury and substituted its own decision in place of the jury's finding. If you've been injured in Illinois, you should contact a personal injury attorney who knows how to appeal a bad decision and get you the compensation you deserve.

In a recent auto injury case, a woman named Ms. Wiggins was injured by a teenaged driver. The teen had relied on a stranger in a red pickup truck who waved her through traffic even though the road was not clear. The teenager was trying to turn left out of a gas station that was situated near a four-way intersection in West Frankfort, Illinois. Traffic from the intersection was backed up, and the young, inexperienced driver waited for an opportunity to turn left. The turn lane directly in front of her had a number of vehicles in it, blocking the way.

But a stranger in that turn lane left some space in front of his red truck. Gesturing through his driver's side window, he waved her through. The teenager believed that the truck driver was being courteous in letting her slip through the gap he had left for her. In her own words, she trusted somebody to say that it was all clear.

When the teen proceeded across the lanes of traffic her visibility was blocked by the truck itself. She was not aware that vehicles on the far side of the red truck were still in motion. As she maneuvered through the gap in front of the truck, she slammed into a motorist who was coming up alongside the truck.

The motorist on the far side of the truck was Ms. Wiggins, who was simply driving past the red truck on her way towards the stop line in the intersection. All parties agree that Ms. Wiggins could not have seen the teenager, who was trying to squeeze past the front of the truck. When the teen's vehicle suddenly entered Ms. Wiggins lane, the ensuing collision allegedly injured Ms. Wiggins and caused damage to her vehicle. The truck driver left the scene and was never identified. Ms. Wiggins filed a personal injury lawsuit against the teen.

At trial, Officer Clint Willis, who responded to the scene, testified that a driver about to enter or cross a highway from a private drive or alley has the duty to yield the right-of-way to all vehicles approaching on the highway to be entered. When the teen was asked if she thought Ms. Wiggins could have done something to avoid the accident, she answered with phrases like "who knows?" and "you never know." The teen then admitted that she never saw Ms. Wiggins' vehicle until the impact occurred and that she had no clue what [Ms. Wiggins] could have done.

Although Ms. Wiggins' case against the teen seemed watertight, she was stunned when the jury delivered a verdict in favor of the teen. Ms. Wiggins immediately filed a motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict. This type of motion goes by the Latin abbreviation j.n.o.v. A j.n.o.v. motion happens when a jury verdict is completely out of line with the facts presented at trial, and a judge decides to override the jury's decision. But in this case, the trial judge denied the j.n.o.v. motion and upheld the jury's verdict instead.

Ms. Wiggins appealed her verdict to the Appellate Court of Illinois for the Fifth District. On appeal, Ms. Wiggins again asserted her motion to have the jury's verdict overturned. The appellate court reexamined the facts presented at trial. All the evidence seemed to indicate that the teen caused the accident. Furthermore, there was no evidence that Ms. Wiggins was responsible for the accident in any way. Even when viewing the facts in the best possible light for the teen driver, the appellate court still found the teen responsible for the accident. The appellate court granted Ms. Wiggins’ motion for j.n.o.v. and sent the case back to the trial court to determine damages.

Your injury case might seem unimpeachable, but a jury can still deliver an unexpected verdict. An experienced and tenacious personal injury attorney can sometimes appeal your case and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. If you've been hurt in Illinois, contact the dedicated auto accident attorneys of Cavanagh Law Group.

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