Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal has reinstated a jury’s award in a traffic accident case. In Ortega v. Belony, a Florida man suffered a broken neck in a Miami-Dade County automobile collision. Following the car accident, the man was hospitalized for eight days and wore a medical halo device for about three months. The man also refused to undergo the neck surgery that was recommended by his treating doctors.
While recuperating, the injured man apparently moved into a relative’s home, where he received assistance with his daily needs from his brother. According to the man, he suffered from sleeping difficulties and was forced to return to the hospital in order to have his halo adjusted. After the medical device was removed, the man reportedly suffered from mild neck discomfort and residual back pain. Despite this, the man’s physicians did not recommend further treatment for his traffic wreck injuries.
Next, the man filed a personal injury lawsuit in Florida against the other driver who was involved in the accident. At around the same time, the hurt man sought additional neck treatment from an orthopedic surgeon. Although the doctor recommended that he undergo neck surgery, the man instead chose to receive three neck injections. Following the injections, the man stated he did not have difficulty performing his daily activities. The injured man also indicated he had no intention of seeking further medical care related to his broken neck.
Following trial, a jury determined the man was 70 percent responsible for his car accident injuries. Although jurors awarded the man about $33,000 for his medical expenses, they declined to award him any damages for his past and future pain and suffering. Since the trial court judge believed the zero damages pain and suffering award was contrary to the evidence offered, he ordered the jury to reconsider. After that, jurors returned a verdict of $5,000.
The trial court expressed shock that a jury would award an individual who suffered a broken neck only $5,000 in damages for his pain and suffering. On the injured man’s motion, the court ordered an additur, or additional damages award, of $245,000 under Section 768.043 of the Florida Statutes. In response, the defendant filed an appeal with Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal.
According to the appellate court, determining an appropriate pain and suffering damages award is typically an issue reserved for the jury. Unless unsupported by the evidence, the court said a jury’s pain and suffering verdict must not be disturbed. The court added that the test is whether the verdict issued could have been returned by “a jury of reasonable men” and women.
Next, the appellate court analyzed the evidence offered in the case. Since the injured man healed quickly, admitted his treatment was successful, and was responsible for 70 percent of his harm, the court stated there was no basis for the trial court’s additur. Accordingly, Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal found that the jury’s pain and suffering award was not unreasonable and remanded the case for reinstatement of the $5,000 verdict.
If you suffered a serious injury in a Miami car accident, you should contact a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer to discuss your right to recover damages. To speak with a dedicated South Florida traffic wreck attorney, do not hesitate to call the hardworking advocates at Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. at (305) 448-8585 or contact us online.
Ortega v. Belony, Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 3rd Dist. 2015
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