In order to recover damages for a car accident in Florida, a person must show not only that he or she has been injured, but also that the injury was caused by the accident (which resulted from another driver’s negligence). Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeals considers this “causation” requirement in Hernandez v. Gonzalez.
Ms. Hernandez and Ms. Feliz were allegedly injured in a car accident in which their vehicle was rear-ended by a car driven by Ms. Gonzalez. The women were taken from the scene of the crash by ambulance to a hospital and later sought treatment for injuries they said they sustained during the collision. Hernandez and Feliz then sued Gonzalez for negligence.
Although she admitted that she was negligent in causing the crash, Gonzalez defended the lawsuit by asserting that the injuries suffered by the women weren’t actually caused by the accident. Gonzalez presented evidence showing that Hernandez had a history of pre-existing injuries prior to the crash, for example, and argued that it was these injuries for which she sought treatment after the collision. Gonzalez also presented evidence indicating that Feliz wasn’t injured at all in the accident, including testimony from a witness who said Feliz was “laughing and giggling” at the hospital, according to the court. The women disputed the assertions, but a jury sided with Gonzalez, returning a verdict of zero damages. The trial court denied their motion for new trial.
Affirming the decision on appeal, the Fourth District found that the evidence was sufficient to support the jury’s verdict. “Where there is a dispute as to whether a plaintiff’s injuries resulted from the subject accident, a verdict awarding the plaintiff only a portion of his or her damages, or perhaps none at all, does not require a new trial as a matter of law,” the court explained.
While Hernandez presented expert testimony indicating that her injuries were caused by the accident, the court said Gonzalez rebutted this evidence with records of her previous injuries and treatment. She also rebutted Feliz’s claims of injury with witness testimony. As a result, the court found that it was up to the jury to determine which evidence to credit. The court further noted that persons involved in a car accident who aren’t injured in the crash may be able to recover damages for expenses related to medical exams undertaken to determine whether an injury occurred (the cost of the ambulance and hospital visit). Here, however, the court said the jury was entitled to find that these damages weren’t warranted based on evidence showing that the women may not have been truthful about the cause and extent of any injuries.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident in Florida, contact the South Florida car accident lawyers at Anidjar & Levine. From offices in Ft. Lauderdale, we serve clients throughout the area, including in Coral Springs, Pompano Beach and Boca Raton. Call us toll-free at 800-747-3733 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
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