In Rolon v. Burke, Florida’s Second District Court of Appeals says a woman permanently injured in a car accident is entitled to a new trial on future damages, including those related to medical costs and pain and suffering.
Ms. Burke was injured when the vehicle she was driving was rear-ended by a truck driven by Mr. Rolon and owned by Mr. Fyock. She sued both men for negligence. Following a trial on the matter, a jury returned a verdict for Burke, finding that she suffered permanent injury as a result of the crash and awarding her $20,000 for past pain and suffering. The jury did not award Burke the full amount of damages she sought for past medical expenses, however, and awarded her no damages for future pain and suffering and future medical expenses.
The trial court later granted Burke’s motion for a new trial, ruling that the damages award was against the great weight of evidence. The court determined that it erred during trial by allowing a doctor to testify for Rolon and Fyock that he would have charged Burke much less money for cervical surgery than the doctors who actually operated on her. The trial court also said that it should have permitted evidence showing that Burke could not seek treatment for TMJ because she couldn’t afford the periodontal work that was necessary before the treatment. Finally, the court noted that the unrebutted evidence showed that Burke would need significant future medical treatment for injuries sustained in the accident.
Affirming the lower court’s decision in part, the Second District held that Burke was entitled to a new trial. The Appeals court ruled that the evidence produced at the first trial buoyed the jury’s finding that Burke suffered a permanent cervical disc injury in the accident. Although the doctor who testified to this effect based his conclusion on Burke’s subjective complaints of pain, the court held that this was sufficient to support the permanence decision, citing the state supreme court’s 1994 decision in Tampa v. Long.
“[O]nce a jury determines that a plaintiff has suffered a permanent injury, [he] can recover noneconomic damages related to his pain, suffering, mental anguish, and inconvenience for all of the injuries related to the accident,” the court further explained. Thus, Burke was entitled to a new trial on damages related to future pain and suffering and future medical expenses. Observing that she did not contest the jury’s award for past pain and suffering, on the other hand, the court assumed that she was satisfied with this part of the jury’s decision and ruled that a new trial related to these damages was not necessary.
As this case makes clear, there is a wide range of damages that a person injured in a car accident can seek to recover from the responsible parties. If you or a loved one has been injured in a crash 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, Boca Raton and Pompano Beach. Call us toll-free at 800-747-3733 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
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