Vehicle Rollover Caused by Potholes Results in 7-figure Unanimous Verdict

Road maintenance seems to be a never-ending effort. Road crews seem to always be working on some section of road no matter where you travel. It falls on transportation departments to ensure that vehicles can travel safely upon their roads, and to timely fix any issues that may be unsafe to those traveling the roads. Unfortunately, for James Tawney and Daisy Chaparro’s client, one such hazard was not fixed and resulted in a horrific single vehicle rollover crash. Their client was traveling between El Paso, TX and Carlsbad, NM when he hit not one, but two potholes on the highway. Losing control, his vehicle rolled over, trapping him inside for close to two hours while emergency personnel worked to extract him using jaws of life. He was immediately airlifted to a hospital in El Paso where he underwent multiple surgeries, luckily preventing paralysis, though he was left with permanent injuries. His neck was broken in multiple places, he sustained a TBI, and had many other injuries. 

It was found that the Texas Department of Transportation was aware of these potholes for several days prior to the client’s crash, but neglected to fix them or place any warning signs to make drivers aware of the danger. The estimated time to fix the potholes? 20-30 minutes. This section of highway was known to have recurring problems with potholes, and this particular incident resulted in a TXDOT supervisor being placed on probation for a year. Although it was clearly negligent, TXDOT never made an offer to the client, forcing Mr. Tawney & Ms. Chaparro to take the case to trial. They came to Focus Graphics to create several exhibits for trial. After discussing the case, it was decided to do several colorizations of MRIs and X-rays, a surgical board showing one of the surgeries, a surgical animation for the cervical fusion, and a final injury summary board to show all of the major injuries sustained in the rollover. They knew they needed to communicate to the jury how extensive the injuries and surgeries were so they could understand what their client went through, and the exhibits did the job…the jury unanimously awarded the client $1.593M, though it will unfortunately be reduced based on a Texas law that limits recovery against a governmental entity.

“We had a great client who was a hardworking man and contributing member to our community prior to everything being taken away from him. We had to ensure that the jury could understand, and not just by listening to expert testimony, what the injuries were and how painful the recovery process was, and still is, for our client. Focus Graphics delivered everything we needed, and the graphics, especially the surgical animation, really helped the jury grasp the extent of his injuries. The jury sent a clear message to TXDOT that the rural roads of Hudspeth County, and the people who travel them, are just as important to keep safe as those in Austin, Houston, Dallas, or any other Texas big city. Hopefully, this verdict represents a change to how TXDOT prioritizes the safety of the motoring public so that what happened to our client never happens to anyone else.”

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