Arnold v. Wallace Discusses Medical Evidence in North Carolina Car Accident Cases

If you have been involved in a North Carolina car accident, you may be confused over what you must do to prove your case. This is why it is so important for you to have an experienced North Carolina injury attorney guiding you to the award you deserve.
Recently, the Virginia courts clarified confusion surrounding the admissibility of medical evidence in a court case arising from a car accident. See Arnold v. Wallace. This case arose in 2005 when Mary Arnold (plaintiff) was involved in a car accident with Jonathan Wallace (defendant). The defendant was an uninsured driver and was the at-fault party to the accident.

Plaintiff entered a claim with her insurance company because she did have uninsured motorist (UM) coverage in her car insurance policy. Additionally, the plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit based on the theory of negligence. Negligence is the most common contention in personal injury lawsuits. In order to prove a case for negligence, the plaintiff has the burden of proving all of the four elements of a negligence claims.

First, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care. This duty of care is usually measured by what a reasonable person in similar circumstances to the defendant’s would do. Next, the plaintiff must show that the defendant breached this duty of care to the plaintiff. The third element is the critical element in car accident cases. This is that the plaintiff must show that the defendant’s breach was the direct and proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. Basically, the plaintiff must show that but for the defendants’ breach of duty, she would not have her current injuries. Lastly, in a negligence claim the plaintiff must show that she suffered damages.

In order to prove the causation element of her case, the plaintiff called her treating physician to the stand. This doctor testified that the plaintiff was suffering from bone edema, spinal stenosis and post-concussion syndrome. This doctor testified that it was in his opinion to a medical degree of certainty that the plaintiffs injuries were caused by this car accident she was involved in which was caused by the defendant.

However, the issue in this case arose when the defense cross examined the plaintiff’s doctor. The doctor’s general practice was to keep a chart on each of his patients. He was not the only member of his staff to see his patients; thus, when a member of his staff met with the patient they would record their medical opinions and impressions on this client chart.

In the plaintiff’s chart there were entries that stated that it was of the impression of one of the doctor’s staff that the plaintiff had a degenerative back condition that was present before the car accident with the defendant. The defense moved to enter the plaintiff’s medical chart into evidence; however, the plaintiff’s counsel objects.

The court in this case overruled the objection holding that where a medical record is regularly and customarily kept during the course of business, it will be admissible under the business record exception to the hearsay rule of evidence.

Thus, because this court allowed the defense to enter this medical chart into evidence, the plaintiff was unable to prove that it was more likely than not that her back conditions were the result of the car accident with the defendant. The plaintiff was only able to recover a minimum amount in damages.

If you have been injured contact North Carolina injury attorneys at Lee Law Offices to schedule a free appointment today. Call 800-887-1965.

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