Parker County man wins $5.2 million judgment against elderly driver

Posted Friday, Aug. 02, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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A Parker County jury has awarded $5.2 million to a motorcycle rider who was bady injured when he was hit by a car driven by an 83-year-old woman going the wrong way on Interstate 20, the motorcyclist’s attorney announced.

Jerry Wall was westbound about 9:30 a.m. Oct. 8, 2010, when his Suzuki was hit by a car driven by Vernell Ingram as she drove the wrong way down an exit ramp in Hudson Oaks, according to the attorney and media reports.

Wall’s injuries included a broken arm, punctured lung, fractures of both femurs and his pelvis, and the amputation of one leg below the knee.

It’s the largest damage award in the county “in at least a few years,” said Jeff Swain, Parker County assistant district attorney.

As Hudson Oaks officer Justin Kennedy investigated the wreck, he began to question Ingram’s competency to drive and notified the Texas Department of Public Safety, the state agency responsible for issuing driver’s licenses, according to a news release from Brown Fox, the Dallas-based law firm that represented Wall.

Ingram was required to take driving tests to keep her license and failed four tests before narrowly passing on her fifth try.

After a week-long trial, a jury in Parker County’s 43rd state District Court on July 26 ordered Ingram to pay actual damages of $5.22 million. Wall had dropped his request for punitive damages before the trial.

Attorney Bruce Moon, who represented Ingram, said, “Mrs. Ingram made a specific mistake on a specific day that led to a terrible accident. Mr. Wall has to his credit maximized his recovery and should be applauded for that.”

Moon said he did not know whether Ingram would appeal the verdict.

“In the interest of fairness, it should be noted that she has had no wrecks or citations of any sort since the day of this terrible accident,” Moon said.

Wall said he has “been able to return to a relatively normal life, except for the inherent challenges that persons relying on prosthetic legs must deal with.”

“I will always have serious limitations on being able to mountain bike, hike with my father, or run with my dog as I did before,” Walls said. “But I am blessed to be alive and enjoying life to the most of my capabilities with wonderful family and friends.”

He called for new state laws to protect drivers “from those who choose to ignore their diminished ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.”

“I would like to see laws limiting renewal terms and requiring mandatory driving tests for renewal at an earlier age in order to prevent unnecessary loss of life and injuries,” he said.

By Texas law, people 79 or older may not renew their licenses by mail or online. They must appear in person at a DPS office. At age 85 and older, a person’s license expires every two years instead of the usual six.

According to the DPS website, when older people appear for license renewal, they are required to take a vision test, and a DPS staff person may conduct what’s called a “basic medical evaluation.” If the evaluation determines that the older person may not be able to safely operate a vehicle, he or she may be required to take driving, written and vision tests.

Also, the law provides for a medical advisory board that reviews documentation “relating to an individual’s ability to drive.” Anyone, such as the police officer in the Ingram case, can report “an individual to the DPS for a medical evaluation.” Based on the medical board’s recommendation, the DPS may revoke a license “of any individual found to be medically incapable of safely operating a motor vehicle.”

Once an older person’s license has been challenged, the law does not limit the number of times he or she can take the driving test, according to a DPS spokesman.

Revocation proceedings are determined case by case, the DPS spokesman said.

Lance Winter, 817-594-9902, Ext. 102

Twitter: @Lancewinter

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