A recent case illustrates the importance of taking a strategic approach when bringing a lawsuit for personal injuries. It is critical to retain an attorney with the objectivity and good judgment, who can evaluate both the negative aspects of your case as well as the positive and take a more circumspect approach in the event that you have serious pre-existing conditions or other factors that could impact the jury’s verdict.
The plaintiffs in this case were driving when their car was rear-ended by the defendant. The plaintiffs were taken for medical evaluation and claimed to have injuries. They sued, but the trial did not go as they had hoped it would.
The defendants admitted negligence, but disputed that they had caused the injuries or owed any damages. They claimed that one of the plaintiffs had a history of serious pre-existing injuries that had triggered the need for medical treatment. They also presented evidence that the other defendant was witnessed laughing at the hospital after being admitted.
The plaintiffs brought for evidence to controvert the defendants’ evidence. One of them presented expert testimony on causation and damages. However, the defense’s expert offered the opinion that the plaintiff had a pre-existing condition and the accident did not cause or contribute to that condition. Similarly the other plaintiff offered evidence of a neck injury and the defense countered with evidence that created doubt.
The defendants did not dispute that the cost of medical care immediately following the accident was the result of the accident and was reasonable. However, at the end of the presentation of evidence at trial, neither of the plaintiffs moved for directed verdict stating their entitlement to the medical care costs. When the trial was over, the jury found the accident was not the cause of the damages and awarded them nothing.
The plaintiffs asked for a new trial. The trial court denied their request. They appealed.
On appeal they argued that the jury’s awarding of zero damages was against the manifest weight of the evidence. The appellate court explained that causation was a disputed issue. The plaintiffs had presented some evidence, but because the defendant had presented good countering evidence the jury was entitled to reject the medical testimony presented by the plaintiffs.
The appellate court explained that a jury can reject evidence of past medical expenses and determine that a plaintiff didn’t suffer a loss, injury or damages from an accident. The court noted that even when causation is not found by the jury, the plaintiff can recover expenses incurred for medical examinations that are reasonably necessary to determine whether the accident caused the injuries.
In an earlier case, the court had permitted the plaintiff to recover for diagnostic testing regardless of whether the jury found the accident to be the legal cause of the injuries. However, the court had also found that there are exceptions, such as when there are pre-existing injuries that require a lot of treatment or a lack of candor with treating doctors. These exceptions applied in this case.
Moreover, the plaintiffs had not moved for directed verdict regarding the cost of immediate medical treatment. By asking the jury to return a verdict and not asking for the directed verdict, they had adopted an all-or-nothing approach. The plaintiffs had essentially invited the jury to return with an award of nothing and were precluded from arguing otherwise.
If you are seriously hurt due to somebody else’s negligence, contact the knowledgeable Florida personal injury attorneys at Friedman, Rodman & Frank toll-free for a free consultation at (877) 448-8585.
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