Research has shown the immediate actions of an expectant mother following a car accident are key to ensuring the best overall outcome for both her and the unborn child. The increased risk of complications following a crash can be significant, which is why pregnant women should always seek immediate medical attention following a crash, no matter how seemingly minor.
If there is any evidence of injury to mother or child, it’s imperative to consult soon after with an experienced civil litigation lawyer. The reason is adequate proof of causation regarding the baby’s injuries (including premature birth) may require numerous expert witnesses. The law firm to handle such a claim should have not only extensive experience but ample resources.
This is important not only to cover the immediate costs (medical bills, lost wages, etc.) but also to accurately determine the full scope of the long-term impact.
Such was the concern in the recent case of Moses v. Drake, and unfortunately, the one-paragraph affidavit from a single expert witness provided prior to trial was not sufficient to stave off summary judgment in defendant’s favor, ruled Delaware Supreme Court justices.
Court records show plaintiff was 26 weeks pregnant when she was rear-ended by another driver, who was later cited for following too closely. At the time, plaintiff was in a program for high-risk pregnancies. Five weeks after the crash, the child was delivered nearly two months prematurely, at 31 weeks.
In her subsequent lawsuit, plaintiff alleged trauma-induced premature birth and mental and physical difficulties relating to the child. However, she did not oppose trial court’s dismissal of all counts relating to the child where the motor vehicle collision was indicated to be the proximate cause. Presumably, causation would have been highly difficult to prove given her medical history.
However, she did persist with an allegation that the crash resulted in back pain. The court granted her six months to prepare expert witness reports for submission to the court in order to show causation. Plaintiff failed to meet the deadline, but trial court agreed to an extension. Plaintiff then submitted a one-paragraph opinion from her doctor in which he stated it was “feasible” her back injury was caused by the crash.
Defendant moved for dismissal on grounds “feasibility” was not legally sufficient basis to establish reasonable medical probability of causation.
The physician then responded with a clarification that stated her injuries were “more likely than not” causally related to the crash.
Court considered both statements by the doctor, and held they were legally insufficient as a matter of law because a doctor’s opinion has to use the phrase “reasonable medical probability” or “reasonable medical certainty” in order to survive a summary judgement motion. Further, because the deadline for additional medical reports had passed, plaintiff was barred from producing any further expert testimony. Thus, the court granted summary judgment favoring defense.
Plaintiff sought a rehearing, arguing firstly that state law doesn’t define “reasonable medical certainty” and offering the doctor’s once-more clarified statement that included the phrase. Trial court denied motion for rehearing and plaintiff appealed.
Appellate court affirmed, finding the clarifying statements were simply reactionary filings, which would unfairly prejudice defendant if allowed.
Because car accident injuries don’t always reveal themselves immediately following the crash, bringing to court ample medical evidence of causation can be key to succeeding in such claims.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Moses v. Drake, Jan. 27, 2015, Delaware Supreme Court
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Comstock v. UPS Ground Freight, Inc. – Misconduct Ends in Crash Case Dismissal, Jan. 22, 2015, Charlotte Car Accident Lawyer Blog