Florida Court of Appeal Affirms Majority of $2.13 Million Car Accident Award

In a personal injury lawsuit, the injured person must do more than show the defendant caused an injury. The injured person must also provide details of the damages incurred as a result of the injury. Some may be straightforward, like the bill for services from the Emergency Room visited after the accident. Others require more analysis and calculation. A recent Fifth District Court of Appeal decision (5D15-4423) discusses such damages, and the appellate court reviewed whether or not the court erred by not allowing a new trial after a Florida car accident.

At trial, the injured party was awarded $2.13 million in damages for the permanent injuries he sustained from the auto collision. The defendant driver appealed, arguing the trial court should have granted a new trial based on the improper closing arguments. The driver also sought to limit the jury award for pain and suffering and future medical expenses. All of these motions were denied by the lower court and affirmed on appeal. The appellate court did grant a new trial for the defendant’s motion for remittitur related to the lost earning capacity and collateral source payments.

On this subject, the injured person provided testimony at trial that he worked as a plumber with an hourly wage between $18 and $19.50. He stated his job had evolved into a less physically demanding role in which he only performed minor plumbing duties, but his pay remained the same. The injured person testified that his goal was to continue working as a plumber until age 65 unless he was laid off or moved to another job. On cross examination, the injured man acknowledged he went back to full-time work performing all plumbing duties, even though he was still receiving chiropractic care.

After hearing the evidence, the jury chose to award $160,000 for past medical expenses, $10,000 for lost earnings, $500,000 for future medical expenses, and $260,000 for lost earning capacity. $1.2 million was awarded for past and future pain and suffering. Following the trial, the court did adjust the verdict to include the undisputed set-offs and amended the verdict to $2.03 million. The defendant asked the court to review the award for loss of earning capacity. The court declined to consider the additional set-offs.

Florida case law and statutes cover how and when a trial court can adjust a monetary damages award to a plaintiff. Following the motion of a defendant, the court can look at whether the award is excessive or inadequate based on the evidence presented at trial. If a determination is made that remittitur or additur is required, and the plaintiff disagrees, the court shall grant a new trial.

The appellate court did not believe the injured person offered sufficient evidence to support an award for loss of earning capacity. The Florida Supreme Court previously ruled that an injured party can only recover loss of earning capacity when the damages can be established with reasonable certainty. In the present case, the injured person testified that his wage stayed the same after the accident and that he was able to work full-time. The Court of Appeal determined the injured person failed to demonstrate that he was completely disabled from further gainful employment.

The Court of Appeal also agreed that the court erred in refusing to consider collateral source payments when assessing whether remittitur was appropriate. If the injured person received payment from an insurer for the injuries, the injured person is precluded from receiving a windfall in a verdict. The injured person here had already benefited from $25,037.56 in payments to his healthcare provider, which released its lien and waived subrogation. The Court of Appeal affirmed the majority of the damages, but it reversed and remanded on the narrow issues of remittitur for loss of earnings and collateral source payments.

The Florida car accident attorneys at Donaldson & Weston have the experience you need to maximize your personal injury award. Call our office today for a free, confidential consultation at 772-266-5555 or 561-299-3999.

More Blog Posts:

Florida District Appellate Court Reviews Future Medical Expenses in Multi-Car Accident Case, Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, November 28, 2016

Federal Circuit Court of Appeal Declines to Find Equitable Tolling in Slip and Fall Case, Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, October 21, 2016

Florida Court of Appeal Allows Injured Motorist to Pursue Additional PIP Payments to Medical Providers, Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, May 18, 2017