Pair of Florida District Court of Appeal Decisions Assess Damages in Motor Vehicle Accident Cases

In Florida, an injured car accident victim can only recover future medical expenses if the care and cost are “reasonably certain” to be incurred. This is accomplished by meeting her burden to provide the fact finder with competent, substantial evidence that future medical expenses are more likely than not to be incurred. An injured party often uses treating physicians and medical administrative staff to relate the need for care and the cost of care. The Fifth District recently reviewed these types of damages in Case No. 5D16-533, in which a jury awarded a large sum of money for several past and future intangible damages to a woman seriously injured in a Florida car accident, including $250,000 worth of future medical expenses.

The defendant driver appealed, and the court affirmed most of the verdict in favor of the injured woman, but it ordered a new trial or adjustment to the amount of damages, known as remittitur. The court emphasized that past medical expenses by themselves are not enough for a jury to use to calculate future medical expenses. In this lawsuit, the $5,365 for surgery was uncontested. The only testimony provided was about the previous medical bills and household goods and services used before the accident. The appellate court found this to be insufficient to meet the standards established by Florida case law precedent, and it reversed the award. The court allowed the parties to either enter a remittitur under section 768.043 of the Florida Statutes or be granted a new trial for the sole issue of the loss of future economic damages.

The Fifth District also assessed the collateral damages in Case No. 5D17-575 following a jury verdict in favor of a woman who was injured in a rear-end car accident case. The injured woman suffered shoulder, neck, knee, and low back pain as well as depression as a result of her injuries. The injured woman alleged she was unable to work due to her injuries, therefore losing a lot of income and the ability to earn income in the future. The defendant driver conceded fault but challenged the cause of the alleged injuries by the plaintiff and their respective costs. The jury returned a verdict awarding $50,000 for past medical expenses, $25,000 for future medical expenses, and $50,000 for past lost earnings. The jury declined to award any damages for future lost earnings.

The defendants filed a motion following the verdict, requesting the trial court to set off, or reduce, the jury’s award by certain collateral source payments listed under 768.76 Florida Statutes (2010). The judge agreed to reduce the award by the amount of PIP payments received by the injured woman but declined to set off the Social Security Disability payments over $90,000. The trial court determined the defendants failed to show the jury award duplicated these payments. The judge concluded it would be too speculative of the jury to determine the benefits received by the injured woman years after the accident overlapped with the year after the accident in which the injured woman received no benefits.

The appellate court agreed with the defendant’s argument that the trial court erred by failing to set off the award by the Social Security benefits. The court looked at section 768.76 for guidance, which only requires evidence of the plaintiff’s receipt of benefits from a collateral source for losses sustained. The court felt to do otherwise would create the need for an itemized verdict form, which would be burdensome, provide no benefit, and fail to serve the legislative intent behind the statute. The decision was reversed on this issue and remanded to the trial court to follow the appellate court’s ruling.

The above examples demonstrate the need to have competent Florida counsel at your side who have personal injury and car accident experience. The ability to effectively utilize expert witnesses can make all of the difference in the amount of damages an injured party receives. 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