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What is a jury's role in a personal injury lawsuit?


There is nothing more tragic than when Knoxville children are injured at the hands of others. This is particularly true when injuries occur during school or in other situations where they are entrusted in the care of other adults.

This was recently the case when two school buses collided, killing two children and a teacher's aide. The accident occurred mid-afternoon after one of the buses suddenly crossed the median and hit the second bus. After the collision, the second bus tipped over and slid along the road.

The National Transportation Safety Board is now in the process of conducting an accident investigation to determine precisely what caused the incident, in addition to the Knoxville Police Department. As part of the investigation, authorities will examine how the occupants were situated within the bus and the extent of the injuries different individuals suffered in the crash. Authorities are hoping the results could help improve the safety of buses to avoid or reduce the severity of future incidents.

While it is unusual to have the National Transportation Safety Board investigating a local accident, it is not unusual that accident investigations occur generally after car accidents. For instance, police officers regularly arrive on scene and conduct an investigation into an accident, including interviewing witnesses and noting the conditions existing at the time of the incident. In other cases, an accident reconstruction may take place to recreate the circumstances that led to the crash and determine how the incident may have happened.

In any event, these investigations are useful sources of information in a later personal injury lawsuit. They should not be confused with liability in the lawsuit, however, which is typically determined by a judge or jury after a trial. The jury is generally the finder of facts in a case, meaning it gets to hear the evidence in a particular case and determine who was at fault for the incident. Accordingly, while the evidence may be largely the same between that considered by a person conducting an accident investigation and the jury, the decision maker differs, as does the reason for the determination in the first place, as a jury is determining fault for purposes of deciding whether one person is liable to another in the context of a lawsuit.

Source: WBIR, "NTSB could use fatal crash to improve school bus safety," Becca Habegger, Dec. 5, 2014

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