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The Importance of Jury Instructions in New Mexico Civil Cases

Posted in Firm News

In personal injury cases, many people think of their attorneys being most useful during examinations of witnesses and closing arguments. However, one very crucial part of a trial is in the crafting of the jury instructions. Jury instructions can drastically change the outcome of a case because jurors are laypeople who do not necessarily understand the law as it is explained to them by the judge. An attorney can make sure that fair and comprehensible jury instructions are given.

Jury instructions are rules that jurors are required to follow when they are deliberating on the outcome of a case. These instructions will determine how the jury decides who is liable and which types of damages should be awarded.

In most circumstances, jurors are the trier of fact, and they must be able to glean a clear picture of the case at hand by contemplating a significant amount of evidence. Almost all states, including New Mexico, have a model set of jury instructions that a judge should to convey to the jury. One common example of a jury instruction in the criminal context would be when a judge explains to the jury that the refusal of a defendant to testify does not indicate guilt. There are instructions specific to certain types of cases, and these instructions are very important when certain evidentiary issues are at stake because these instructions guide jurors to look at the evidence in a specific manner.

Cases may be appealed due to the delivery of improper jury instructions, and it is important that plaintiffs have an attorney to ensure that proper jury instructions are given in the first instance.

Supreme Court in Hawaii Denies Plaintiff’s Motion Based in Part on Erroneous Jury Instructions

The Supreme Court of the State of Hawaii recently released its opinion stemming from a 2005 car accident. According to the opinion, the defendant’s car hit a minor while she was crossing a highway. The case was taken to trial, and the jury found that the defendant was negligent. The case was then appealed to the appellate level, where it was affirmed.

However, the plaintiff then appealed to the Supreme Court, who vacated the two lower courts’ judgments. The Supreme Court found that the lower courts improperly denied the plaintiff’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. The Supreme Court found that the jury instructions were erroneous. The court stated that the instructions incorrectly focused on the pedestrian’s obligation to obey traffic rules rather than the driver’s obligation to avoid accidents. The court went on to explain that this mistake had a prejudicial effect. Furthermore, the court found that the lower court erred when they excluded certain testimony regarding the driver’s speed and when they excluded a probative photograph.

Have You Been Injured in a Traffic Accident in New Mexico?

As you can see, attorneys are integral parts of a case at every level. An attorney can ensure that proper jury instructions are given, and in the event that the case needs to be appealed, an attorney can assist with that as well. The attorneys at the Fine Law Firm have years of experience handling these sorts of complicated cases. If you are successful, an Albuquerque car accident lawyer at the Fine Law Firm can assist you in getting the compensation you are entitled to. Contact an attorney at the Fine Law Firm today at 800-640-6590 to schedule your free initial consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Maine Supreme Court Affirms Jury Verdict Denying Damages to Injured Neighbor, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, December 1, 2015.

New Mexico Officials Urge Drivers to Recognize Risk of Holiday Drunken Driving, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, December 8, 2015.