How Do We Really Know Car Accident Caused Your Injuries?
Personal injury cases often boil down to two issues, damages and causation. Even when the victim of a car accident is hurting, the insurance company may question whether the accident caused the resulting injury. Sometimes it may be obvious that the car accident is the cause of the injury. If you had an unbroken bone before the accident and a broken bone right after the car accident, then causation is obvious.
Causation is not so obvious where the injury causes pain and the victim has had pain in the same area before. Often those case require hiring expensive experts that can make it harder to get compensation for victims of smaller – but painful – car accidents. The Alabama Court of Civil Appeal decision in Fazzingo v. Orange is an important one because the court ruled there that a case should have gone to the jury, even without an expensive expert.
Case Dismissed After Plaintiff Rests
The plaintiff in Fazzingo was hit by someone in their work vehicle. After leaving the scene of the accident the victim went to the hospital with reports of radiating pain in her chest, upper, and lower back. At trial the only witnesses to testify were the victim and her chiropractor.
After the victim and the chiropractor testified, the plaintiff rested their case. After plaintiff rested her case, and before the defense presented their own case, the defense asked the court to skip the rest of the trial and decide in their favor – which the trial court did. The trial court ruled that the plaintiff hadn’t presented sufficient evidence to show that injuries to her back and neck area were caused by the car accident. As a result it dismissed plaintiff’s case at the trial’s half-way point.
Two Accidents, Similar Injuries
The dismissal of plaintiff’s case at the half-way point was largely because the victim had some similar injuries some years before the car accident. Indeed, some years before the woman had broken a vertebrae. However, in her testimony the victim had testified that she had recovered from the previous injury – not 100% – but mostly recovered. In large part because of these prior injuries, the trial court dismissed the case at the half-way point because – according to the judge – the victim had not shown her injuries were caused by the most recent car accident.
Case Should Have Gone to Jury
The judge’s dismissal of plaintiff’s case for a failure to prove her injuries were the result of the most recent car accident was in error, according to the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals. Whether the victim’s injuries were caused by the car accident should have been up to the jury to decide. According to the appeals court, the plaintiff had presented sufficient evidence for a jury – if they chose to do so – to conclude the injuries were caused by the most recent car accident.
Appeals Court Decision Helps Car Accident Victims
In many car accident cases where the insurance company refuses to settle at a reasonable amount the victim’s recourse is to take the case to trial and leave it to a jury to decide the amount of damages. However, where the total potential damages are limited, it is often cost prohibitive to hire experts to testify about a case. Using a treating physician to prove causation like in Fazzingo or the threat of using a treating physician’s testimony should give victims more options when trying to recover for their car accident injuries.
One caveat to the case is that the chiropractor’s expert opinion testimony was not objected to. Had the defendants objected to and successfully kept out parts of the chiropractor’s testimony, it is possible that the result would have changed – though it’s not clear from the opinion.
What to do about a car accident injury:
- Create a record. Go see your doctor and tell her or him about the pains, problems, and concerns you’re having;
- Follow the doctor’s instructions and do your physical therapy exercises regularly. Make a schedule and stick to it;
- Follow up with your doctor when symptoms don’t improve;
- Read the opinion from the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals; and
- Contact the lawyers at Browne House Law about helping you with your car accident or appeal.