State Supreme Court Reverses $4.5 Million Award in Auto Accident Case

The Supreme Court of the State of Nevada recently released a decision in which a trial award of nearly $4.5 million was reversed, and the court ordered a new trial. The state high court found that the lower judge’s exclusion of the defendant’s low-impact accident defense, as well as her ruling to strike the defendant’s answer and enter a default award in favor of the plaintiff, was without merit. As a result of the latest opinion, the plaintiff will be required to settle the case with the defendants or prove the claim again at a second trial.

What Appeared to Be a Minor Crash Allegedly Resulted in Serious Injuries

The plaintiff in the case of Rish v. Simao was allegedly injured in an auto accident with the defendant that occurred in stop-and-go traffic. The plaintiff was able to drive his car home after the crash and refused medical treatment at the scene. However, he later alleged that he developed back and spine injuries. The defendant claimed that the plaintiff’s injuries were exaggerated and could not have been caused by the accident, based on the speed of the vehicles involved and the evidence of the relatively nonviolent impact, suggested by the photos taken at the crash scene.

Before trial, the plaintiff’s attorneys successfully argued to the court that the defense should not be permitted to argue that the crash was a low-impact collision, or that it was not sufficiently violent to cause the plaintiff’s injuries. The judge additionally ordered that the photos of the crash could not be shown to the jury. This ruling was based on the defendant’s failure to retain a biomechanical engineer expert witness who could testify that the forces involved in the crash were too insignificant to cause the injuries.

The Defense Violates the Pretrial Orders Several Times

The court’s ruling excluding the defendant’s proposed medical testimony and the photos of the crash scene made it very difficult for the defendant to present a case that the plaintiff’s injuries were not caused by the crash. At the trial, the defendant repeatedly questioned the plaintiff’s witnesses in a way that suggested the crash was not forceful enough to cause the plaintiff’s injuries, in direct violation of the judge’s pretrial orders. After the defendant was admonished several times for violating the orders, and the jury was repeatedly told to ignore the defendant’s questioning, the judge had finally had enough and granted the plaintiff’s motion to strike the defendant’s answer and enter a default judgment against the defendant. The jury later awarded nearly $4.5 million to the plaintiff.

On Appeal, the High Court Finds the Pretrial Order was Not Justified, and the Sanction Excessive

The defendant appealed the ruling to the Nevada Supreme Court, arguing that the pretrial order forbidding the defendant from discussing the nature of the accident was unjustified, and that it was enforced too broadly against the defendant at trial. The high court agreed with the defense, ruling that while a bio-mechanical expert may be necessary to give an expert opinion as to the nature of the crash as a low-impact collision, a medical doctor should still be permitted to give a medical opinion as to whether the crash would have caused a plaintiff’s injuries. The high court further found that the pictures from the accident scene should have been admitted, and the trial judge’s sanction of striking the defendant’s answer and entering judgment for the plaintiff was not justified. As a result of the appellate ruling, the case will be sent back to the lower court for a new trial.

Are you a Victim of Negligence?

If you or a loved one has been hurt in a car accident, the aggressive South Florida injury lawyers at Friedman, Rodman & Frank have the necessary experience that will give you confidence in our handling of your case. With the help of our knowledgeable and professional Florida accident attorneys, you won’t need to worry about attorney misconduct coming between you and the compensation that you deserve. At Friedman, Rodman & Frank, we accept cases in Miami and throughout South Florida in most personal injury and negligence cases, including auto accidents. If you or a loved one have been injured, contact us toll-free at 877-448-8585 or via our online contact form. Se habla Español / Nou Parlé Creole.

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Florida Accident Victim’s Bad-Faith Claim Against Insurance Company Results in $1 Million Verdict, March 11, 2016, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog

Families of Athletes Diagnosed with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy May Have Claim against Sports League, March 25, 2016, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog

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