Florida Court Addresses Jury Verdict After Car Accident

The American justice system is based on the idea that judgment should come from a jury of one’s peers. Even in civil cases, the court relies on the jury to decide who should prevail and the amount of damages that should be awarded. The court does have mechanisms where they can increase the amount of damages awarded, called “additur.” However, additur is only supposed to be used in extreme cases. A knowledgeable South Florida car accident attorney can help you to present your case in a way so that the jury will understand the true amount of injury and suffering from the beginning.

The Car Accident

During stop and go traffic on I-95, the plaintiff in this case was rear-ended by the defendant. They dispute how severe the accident was, but the plaintiff’s airbag did not deploy and EMS was not called. After the accident, the plaintiff went to get her hair washed and returned to work. Later the plaintiff had chiropractic treatment and physical therapy. She did not receive any injections, pain medication, or surgery related to the injuries. A year after the accident the plaintiff brought a negligence suit against the defendant.

The plaintiff asked for $47,042 in past medical expenses, $117,000 in future medical expenses, $36,500 for past pain and suffering, and $73,000 for future pain and suffering. At the trial, there was conflicting testimony. The plaintiff’s physician testified that she had a permanent injury and would need back surgery in the future. However, up to this point he had only recommended injections. The defense’s medical expert testified that plaintiff’s back problems were due to a degenerative condition, and were not caused by the car accident.

The jury found that the plaintiff had a permanent injury that was caused by the car accident. They also found that the defendant was negligent and awarded the plaintiff $11,767 in past medical bills and $9,000 in future medical bills. They did not award any damages for future or past pain and suffering.

Inconsistent Verdict and Additur

The court and the parties agreed that the verdict was inconsistent, since the jury did find a permanent injury. Florida law requires some amount of damages for pain and suffering when there is a permanent injury. The jury was given instructions along these lines. They came back and awarded the plaintiff $500 each for past and future pain and suffering. The plaintiff asked for a new trial or additur. The successor judge who heard the motion admitted that he did not read the whole transcript but still awarded the plaintiff an additur of $20,000. The defense appealed.

The Florida Fourth District Court of Appeal heard this appeal. They stressed that a jury verdict should not be disturbed unless the amount is “clearly inadequate.” There are certain criteria that Florida law requires be applied to determine inadequacy. These include whether there was prejudice, evidence was ignored, or other factors besides evidence were taken into account. The court here found for the defendant and reduced the verdict to the original amount of $1,000 total non-economic damages. They held that the evidence supported the original jury’s verdict and thus it should stand.

Contact an Experienced South Florida Personal Injury Attorney Today!

The experienced South Florida car accident attorneys at Donaldson & Weston can help you get what you are owed after a car accident. Contact us by using the contact form on this website or call 772-266-555 or 561-299-3999 to schedule your free consultation today.

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