Birmingham Car Accident Lawyer Keith (Kit) Belt Jr. Obtains $13 Million Texting Verdict for Montgomery Crash Victim

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The defendant's cell phone bill, showing two text messages recorded at or just prior to the car accident, came into evidence during the four-day trial, says Keith (Kit) Belt Jr. of the Belt Law Firm, P.C.

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Birmingham car accident lawyer Keith (Kit) Belt Jr.

We are pleased that the jury found in our client’s favor and awarded funds that will pay for his medical expenses. We also think this jury verdict sends a clear message about how Alabama residents feel about texting while driving.

Birmingham car accident lawyer Keith (Kit) Belt Jr. recently secured a $13 million verdict on behalf of a man who was paralyzed in a car crash allegedly caused by a texting driver.

The texting verdict, awarded March 15, 2012, in Montgomery County Circuit Court, comes at a time when Alabama legislators are considering a bill to ban texting while driving.

The plaintiff suffered two shattered vertebrae and traumatic spinal cord injuries in the car crash that have rendered him an American Spinal Injury Association, Class B (ASIA B) paraplegic, according to the complaint filed in the case, Gutierrez v. Franklin, 03-CV-2010-900732.

Judge Eugene W. Reese entered judgment in the case. The $13 million texting verdict represented compensatory damages.

“We are pleased that the jury found in our client’s favor and awarded funds that will pay for his medical expenses,” Belt said. “We also think this jury verdict sends a clear message about how Alabama residents feel about texting while driving.”

Belt is the founding member of Belt Law Firm, P.C., a Birmingham personal injury firm that represents Alabama auto accident victims.

The anti-texting legislation, House Bill 2, passed the House by a 92-0 vote on February 21. It is currently before Alabama Senate’s Judiciary Committee for review. Under the bill, anyone texting while operating a vehicle or driving on a public road or highway in Alabama would face fines and points added to their driving record.

“Our law firm fully supports legislation that will lead to reducing or, hopefully, eliminating altogether the risk of texting accidents,” Belt said.

According to the transcript from the Gutierrez trial, the plaintiff, a legal migrant worker from Mexico, testified that he had been driving for about one mile on U.S. 231 in Montgomery, Alabama, on February 15, 2010, when the defendant suddenly struck his car from behind.

The defendant, a 21-year-old college student, testified that the plaintiff pulled out from a gas station in front of her and into her lane of travel, according to the trial transcript. There were no other eyewitnesses.

Larry Dewberry, an accident reconstruction expert hired by the defendant, testified that the plaintiff was traveling very slowly at impact and had likely just pulled out of the gas station, according to the trial transcript.

In contrast, Pam Stirling, an accident reconstruction expert hired by the plaintiff, testified that the defendant had drifted off the roadway onto the shoulder before over-correcting and striking the right rear of the plaintiff’s vehicle, the trial transcript shows.

According to the exhibits log, the plaintiff presented the defendant’s cell phone bill, which showed one incoming and one outgoing text message about the time that the crash occurred. It was one of more than 100 exhibits the plaintiff presented as evidence during the four-day trial.

The plaintiff’s injuries left him with little sensory function below the chest and no motor function below that level, according to Dr. Keneshia Kirksey, MD, a Birmingham physiatrist who testified for the trial via deposition.

In addition to Kirksey and Stirling, two other experts testified for the plaintiff: Kathy Smith, an Alabama-based life care planner, and J.C. Grant, an accident reconstruction expert.

Grant forensically mapped the entire accident scene and the plaintiff’s vehicle, while Stirling provided the jury with analysis depicting how the accident occurred and that it was consistent with the plaintiff’s version of events, according to the trial transcript.

“As a result of this terrible crash, our client suffered severe, permanent injuries that will require a lifetime of care and treatment,” Belt said. “We are pleased that the jury found in his favor and awarded funds that will pay for our client’s medical expenses.”

About Belt Law Firm, P.C.

Belt Law Firm, P.C., is an Alabama personal injury law firm that represents the victims of insurance fraud (insurance policy disputes and bad faith insurance practices) and dangerous and defective products throughout the communities of Birmingham, Bessemer, Cullman, Tuscaloosa, Jasper, Homewood, Jefferson County, Shelby County, Walker County, Blount County and St. Clair County. Although the firm’s focus is on local litigation in Alabama, the firm’s attorneys practice throughout the country. Belt Law Firm has lawyers licensed in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, New Mexico, and Colorado. To learn more, call the firm toll-free at (888) 933-1514 or use its online form.

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