Florida Car Accident Victim Allowed by District Appellate Court to Keep Jury Verdict Award
In all Florida personal injury lawsuits, it is not enough to have fault established. The injured party must connect the injury to the actions of the at-fault party in order to recover damages for the costs incurred associated with the injury. A recent case, Maines v. Fox (Case Nos. 1D14-5917, 1D15-0739), revolves around the central question of whether there was an error at trial in connecting the injury to the at-fault party, who ran a red light and hit two other vehicles.
One of the drivers of the damaged vehicles filed suit against the at-fault driver and his father, the owner of the car. The injured woman testified that she was permanently injured and had neck surgery as a result of the accident. The at-fault driver and the owner both acknowledged that the son ran the red light but denied that the accident was the cause of the woman’s severe neck injury. The jury found for the injured woman and awarded her nearly $144,000.
During trial, the injured woman presented two medical expert witnesses, her chiropractor and her surgeon, who testified that the automobile accident was the cause of her injuries. The surgeon stated he was also a biomedical engineer with specialized knowledge regarding the effect of external forces on the human spine. He testified that she had a herniated disc and a severely injured neck as a result of a traumatic event, the accident, which caused the need for surgery.
The at-fault party also presented expert witnesses, a medical doctor and a biomechanical engineer who was also a medical doctor. The doctor testified that he believed the injured woman’s neck condition was the result of a condition pre-existing the accident. The defendants’ biomechanics engineer and medical doctor expert was going to testify that the forces in the accident were not significant enough to cause the specific harm endured by the injured driver. However, the injured woman challenged his testimony, arguing that the conclusions were not made using reliable methods. The trial court agreed and limited his testimony regarding the specific causation of the injury, allowing him to only testify about his calculations of the force of the accident and his opinion that the car did not create enough force to cause that severe an injury.
The appellate court, in its review of the defendants’ biomechanical/medical doctor expert, reviewed the standards of what was allowed by Florida case law with both biomechanical and medical expert testimony. A biomechanics expert is able to provide an opinion on the general mechanism of an injury but cannot provide an opinion that requires medical expertise. Medical experts are allowed to give opinions about specific causation.
The defendants’ witness was both a biomechanical engineer and a medical doctor, causing the appellate court to find it was an abuse of the trial court’s discretion to exclude a portion of his testimony at trial. The appellate court did not agree with the trial court’s determination that blending the two specialties was the “creation of a new science,” and it felt the injured woman didn’t properly argue against the methodology. However, the court also found the exclusion to be harmless error. The court determined that the jury was able to hear the majority of the relevant factors regarding the amount of force, and thus the lack of his ultimate opinion that the accident did not cause the injuries was not a major contributing factor in the jury’s verdict. The verdict for the injured person was upheld.
The Florida car accident attorneys at Donaldson and Weston have the experience to see your personal injury action through from start to finish. Our attorneys know how to utilize expert witness testimony to help maximize the damages for your injury. Call today for a free, confidential consultation at 772-266-5555 and 561-299-3999.
More Blog Posts:
Florida Appellate Court Reinstates Injured Automobile Passenger Award of Over $93,000, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, February 17, 2016
Florida’s First District Court of Appeal Allows Child’s Wrongful Death Suit to Continue, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, January 18, 2016