In any Charlotte car accident case, it’s not enough to prove the other driver was at-fault. The injured person – or plaintiff – also needs to show they suffered damages as a result of that crash. This is rarely as straightforward as it sounds. It’s not a matter of simply producing medical bills. One needs to show the injuries they suffered were clearly caused by the crash – and not something else – and that the injuries are as severe as claimed. Further, any estimation of future damages or losses takes a careful accounting of a person’s expected future earnings, quality of life, health of personal relationships and more.
In the recent case of Christ v. Schwartz, a couple appealed a verdict in which jurors assigned 100 percent of the blame on the other driver – yet awarded $0 in damages to plaintiff. The major flaws in plaintiff’s case had to do with:
- Lack of credibility;
- Lack of corroboration.
Jurors did not believe plaintiff suffered the injuries she said she did – or if she did, that they were not caused by the crash. This was true even though they fully agreed the other motorist was fully responsible for the wreck.
According to court records, the crash occurred in October 2011, when defendant driver, operating his vehicle at approximately 10 mph, drove around a bus and sideswiped a vehicle driven by plaintiff, who was wearing a seat belt. Her body reportedly didn’t strike anything in the car. The air bags did not deploy. Records from the California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division One, state, “Plaintiff was not injured in the collision.”
Plaintiff reportedly immediately began looking for witness – which is not necessarily a bad thing – but in so doing, according to police, was interfering with the police investigation.
Although she drove herself home from the scene and declined medical treatment, she did see her primary care physician the following day, complaining of neck and back pain. He prescribed a muscle relaxant and physical therapy. She did not attend physical therapy, but instead began seeing a massage therapist twice weekly for six weeks.
She complained of continued pain a year after the accident, but numerous medical exams did not result in any finding of abnormality. She had, however, suffered previous injuries relating to neck and back pain that were the result of previous accidents for which she had filed personal injury claims that were later settled. One was a slip-and-fall case and another was a dog bite injury.
Additionally, medical records indicated that she changed her story with regard to the intensity and frequency of her pain on several occasions.
Along with her complaint, her husband filed a claim for loss of consortium. Altogether, they sought damages in excess of $2 million.
However, there was a fair amount of evidence that contradicted plaintiff’s claims. For example, she claimed she couldn’t lift more than five pounds. Yet video taken of her near her home showed her lifting large garbage cans, large bags and dogs. She also claimed her injuries were sustained in the crash, but photos of the damage to the vehicle indicated minimal to no real damage to the car. (It should be noted that this is a common defense tactic and not necessarily indicative of the extent of injuries one suffers. Still, in light of the greater evidence, it didn’t help.) As to the claim of loss of consortium, defense raised evidence of husband’s long-time extramarital affair.
Defense asserted plaintiff was not credible – and the jury agreed.
Upon review by the appeals court, that verdict was affirmed, finding no reversible error.
It is critical in any car accident case for the plaintiff to have credibility, and that often comes with corroboration of evidence. An experienced car accident attorney knows that you have the best chance of succeeding when your claims can be backed by medical records, expert witness testimony and other convincing evidence.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Christ v. Schwartz, Aug. 12, 2016, California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division One
More Blog Entries:
Road Debris Significant Cause of Carolina Car Accidents, Aug. 15, 2016, Charlotte Car Accident Attorney Blog