In Smith v. Llamas, the Second District Court of Appeal took on an important issue in Florida car accident cases – whether a party’s injuries are temporary or permanent – and explained that it should usually be decided by a jury.
Llamas was injured in an April 2008 car accident when his car collided with a vehicle driven by Smith. Smith was traveling eastbound and attempted to make a left turn while Llamas was traveling westbound when the crash occurred. Llamas sued Smith for negligence, alleging that he suffered knee and neck injuries in the accident, which he said was caused by Smith’s negligence. Smith argued that she was not completely responsible for the accident pursuant to Florida’s comparative negligence standard, allowing liability to be determined proportionately based on each party’s share of the blame.
At the close of trial, a jury found that Smith was solely liable for the accident and awarded Llamas just under $40,000 in damages. The entire amount was for past medical expenses. The jury did not award any damages for future expenses, finding that Llamas’ injuries were not permanent, nor for pain and suffering.
The trial court later granted Llamas’ request for a new trial, in which he claimed that the evidence indisputably showed that he sustained injuries that were both permanent and related to the crash. The Second District reversed the decision on appeal, however, finding that the trial court abused its discretion by disrupting the jury verdict.
In order for a verdict to be so unjust to warrant a new trial, “the evidence must be clear, obvious, and indisputable,” the court explained, citing its 2004 decision in Harlan Bakeries v. Snow. “[W]here there is conflicting evidence, the weight to be given that evidence is within the province of the jury.”
In this case, a neurosurgeon testified that Llamas’ neck injury was permanent because surgery would not completely eliminate the problem. An orthopedic surgeon, on the other hand, testified that the injury was not permanent and that he did not believe it was caused by the accident.
While only one doctor testified regarding Llamas’ knee injury – stating that the injury was permanent and caused by the accident – Smith properly rebutted this testimony. The doctor’s conclusion was based on Llamas’ medical history as relayed to him by Llamas, for instance. The court pointed to inconsistencies as to whether Llamas lost consciousness during the accident and whether he struck his knees against the car at any time, saying that they called into question whether the information he gave the doctor was accurate.
As a result, the court reversed the trial court’s ruling granting a new trial.
The extent and duration of a person’s injuries is one of the major issues that often arises in car accident cases. If you have been injured in a car crash, contact the South Florida car accident attorneys at Anidjar & Levine. We represent clients throughout the area, including in Hialeah, Coral Springs and Boca Raton. Call our Fort Lauderdale office at 800-747-3733 for a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney.
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