An accident victim who has been in more than one crash within a short period of time needs to seek immediate legal counsel because questions of causation of injuries are going to loom large in these cases.
It may be possible to pursue legal action against just one defendant, or perhaps it’s advantageous to make claims against both. But either way, the defense is likely to claim it was the other accident that caused the injuries at issue. Your legal team needs to be ready to answer those allegations with solid medical data and expert witness testimony.
There are situations where a driver who is injured in Crash 1 can collect damages for some of those injuries from an at-fault driver in Crash 2 if the circumstances of Crash 2 exacerbated the injuries sustained in Crash 1. Truly, these matters can end up being more complex than they might initially appear.
One recent case where this became an issue was JLG Trucking LLC v. Garza, weighed by the Texas Supreme Court. Although this is an out-of-state case, the same basic legal principals are applicable here in Florida too.
According to court records, plaintiff was involved in two crashes, three months apart.
The first occurred in July 2008 when she was rear-ended by an 18-wheeler, driven by defendant’s employee. An ambulance was called to the scene, but plaintiff was not transported to the hospital. Instead, her aunt drove her to a nearby emergency clinic. X-rays were taken and she saw an orthopedic surgeon five days later, at which time she complained of neck and back pain. The doctor found damage to the lordotic curve of her spine and ordered physical therapy, which she underwent for about 11 weeks.
Shortly after her physical therapy ended, in October 2008, she was involved in another crash. This time, she was taken by ambulance to a hospital on an immobilization board to prevent neck movement. She complained of pain in her neck, chest and head. At a later follow-up visit to another doctor, she indicated the pain radiated to her shoulder. Doctor determined she had two herniated discs in her neck. Although initially prescribing pain medication in hopes of avoiding surgery, it ultimately became necessary and was successful.
Plaintiff has a scar on her neck, reduced neck mobility and may need another surgery in the future, but is otherwise doing well.
She sued the trucking company involved in the first auto accident seeking damages for medical expenses, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, pain and suffering, physical impairment and disfigurement and mental anguish.
Her treating physician served as her expert witness, and told the court her injuries were primarily the result of the first accident. However, defense expert witness, a neuroradiologist, testified her injuries were due to chronic degeneration, not trauma. Alternatively, defendant sought to introduce evidence plaintiff’s injuries were caused by Crash 2.
Plaintiff filed a pretrial motion to exclude all evidence of Crash 2 on grounds it was not relative or that any probative value was outweighed by how much it would prejudice or confuse jurors. Trial court granted the motion, and jurors rendered a verdict favorable to plaintiff.
While appellate court affirmed this, the state supreme court reversed and remanded for a new trial. The court reasoned evidence of the second accident was central to whether it was defendant’s negligence that caused plaintiff’s injuries. Excluding this information, the court ruled, was a harmful error. So too was the trial court’s order not to allow cross-examination of plaintiff’s expert witness.
This doesn’t mean plaintiff lost the case, but she will have to take it to court again.
If you have been injured in an accident, contact the Hollander Law Firm at 888-751-7777 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.
JLG Trucking LLC v. Garza, April 24, 2015, Texas Supreme Court
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Westin v. Groh – Hotel Operator Liability in Crash Case, April 22, 2015, Boca Raton Auto Accident Lawyer Blog