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Florida Accident Victim Prevails on Appeal Based on Jury Instruction

An appellate court recently issued a decision in a Florida accident case resulting in serious injuries. The defendant admitted fault and the issues at trial related to damages, causation, and severity of the plaintiff’s injuries. The jury found in favor of the plaintiff but failed to address whether she was entitled to damages for her preexisting condition.

Florida follows the theory of the “eggshell plaintiff.” Under this concept, negligent parties take the injury victim as they found them. This means that the defendant will be liable for the full extent of a plaintiff’s injuries, even if their injuries were more than an average person would experience under similar circumstances. The doctrine applies in cases when an injury:

  • Activates a latent condition;
  • Aggravates a condition;
  • Exacerbates a preexisting condition; or
  • Hastens death or disability.

At trial, the plaintiff’s expert testified that the plaintiff experienced migraines before the accident, and it became more frequent since the accident, which is uncommon for migraine patients. Further, the plaintiff testified that before the accident, she experienced headaches on the left side of her head and post-accident, she experienced migraines on the right side of her head up to five days a week. The trial court refused to provide the jury with a jury instruction regarding aggravation evidence. The plaintiff appealed, arguing that the trial court committed a reversible error.

Under Florida law, courts will review jury instructions for an abuse of discretion. An abuse of discretion occurs when a court fails to provide an instruction that is an accurate statement of the law that is supported by facts and necessary for the jury to resolve the issue.

In this case, the instruction was not an inaccurate statement of the law. Next, the evidence supports the instruction because the expert testified that the accident exacerbated the migraines. Finally, the instruction was necessary for the jury to resolve the issue properly. Without the instruction, the jury was left to guess whether they could award damages for a preexisting condition that was aggravated. Their confusion was evidenced by the jury asking the court for clarification on the factual issues surrounding aggravation. As such, the court abused its discretion in failing to instruct aggravation of a preexisting condition. The appellate court reversed the trial court’s ruling because it was an error to exclude the jury instruction.

Have You Suffered Injuries in a Florida Accident?

If you or someone you love has experienced injuries or died in an accident, contact the Florida personal injury attorneys at Friedman Rodman Frank & Estrada. The lawyers at our office have been successfully representing accident victims for over 40 years. Our firm handles complex injury cases involving Florida slip and falls, auto accidents, boating accidents, premises liability, products liability, and medical malpractice. We have recovered significant damages for our clients related to their medical expenses, rehabilitation, pain and suffering, and lost wages. Contact our office at 877-448-8585 to schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney on our team. Calling is free and we will not bill you for our legal services unless and until we can recover compensation on your behalf.

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