Legal liability in a Florida car accident case is not simply a matter of who’s right and who’s wrong, but also how the dispute is framed to a jury. In Costa v. Aberle, Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal considers specific instructions given to the jury in a rear-end accident case.
Rosalva Costa was a passenger in a car that was rear-ended by a vehicle driven by Joseph Aberle. Costa alleged that she injured her neck and back as a result of the accident. She sought treatment from a chiropractor and, after the pain returned, underwent surgery – performed by Dr. Heldo Gomez, a neurosurgeon – which revealed that Costa was suffering from a “leaking disc.” She underwent a second surgery and returned to the chiropractor when the pain continued.
Costa sued Aberle for money damages related to the back and neck injuries sustained in the accident. At trial, the defense presented testimony from a radiologist, an orthopedic surgeon and a neurologist, each of whom stated that the surgeries performed by Dr. Gomez following the accident were not related to the accident. During closing argument, Aberle’s attorney asserted that the leaky disc was a result of Dr. Gomez’s treatment, rather than the accident.
On Costa’s request, the trial judge instructed the jury that the question of whether Costa’s medical treatment was necessary should be viewed from her perspective and that any injury she incurred as a result of necessary treatment related to the accident should be considered as caused by Aberle’s negligence. The jury found that Aberle was responsible for the injury and awarded Costa $78,132 for past medical expenses and $75,000 for future medical expenses.
Subsequently, however, the trial court granted the defense’s motion for a new trial, in which it argued that instructions were not appropriate.
On appeal, the Fourth District found that the trial court abused its discretion in granting the new trial. The jury instruction, according to the Court, was proper because the defense counsel argued that Dr. Gomez’s treatment caused Costa’s injury. “It is certainly permissible for the defense to argue that the treatment the plaintiff underwent was not caused by the accident,” the Court ruled. “It is an entirely different thing to argue, as the defendant did in the instant case, that the treatment was inappropriate and unnecessary.” That’s because Costa could still seek damages for injuries caused by the accident, even if the subsequent medical treatment made them worse.
The Court remanded the case with instructions that the jury verdict be reinstated.
As this case makes clear, experienced legal representation is central to winning a car accident case, in part by framing the way in which the case is presented to a jury. The South Florida car accident attorneys at Anidjar & Levine work hard to zealously represent our clients throughout the region, including in Pompano Beach, Coral Springs and Boca Raton. Anidjar & Levine’s lawyers commonly represent individuals who were injured in vehicle collisions, and we persevere to get the best possible results for our clients. If you were involved in a rear end collision, a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney can help you to weigh all of your legal options. Call Anidjar & Levine’s Fort Lauderdale office today at 800-747-3733.
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