Florida Supremes Allow Trial Court to Reevaluate Fender Bender Case
The Florida Supreme Court recently produced an interesting ruling that could spell serious trouble for insurance companies who argue that a simple rear end accident cannot produce serious injuries. PIP medical providers are all too familiar with an insurance company’s questions about the extent of damage to the vehicle following an accident, whether the car could be driven away from the scene, or whether the insured person involved in the crash was taken to the hospital for treatment. In Van v. Schmidt, the Supreme Court of Florida ruled in favor of a trial judge who found that while the vehicle an injured person was driving suffered only minimal property damage, such an accident could result in serious medical problems for someone involved in the accident.
The accident giving rise to this case occurred back in October of 2007. Mr. and Ms. Van were driving their family vehicle when they were rear-ended by a car driven by the Defendant, Mr. Schmidt. Following the accident, Mr. Van claims to have undergone a complicated surgery known as spinal fusion in order to fix a neck injury that he claimed was the result of the fender bender accident. Van then sued Schmidt to recover for the medical bills associated with the surgery. At trial, the Defendant Schmidt stated that while he had indeed caused the accident, that the accident had not actually caused Van’s injuries. If Schmidt could show that the accident did not cause Van’s injuries, he would not be liable for the medical bills at issue. Schmidt supported this argument by stating that the accident was a minor fender bender which caused only $800 worth of damages to the other vehicle, that Van had pre-existing back and neck conditions at the time of the accident, and that other elements of Van’s medical history had caused the injury which required surgery; not the accident.
In order to prove that the wreck had indeed been the cause of Van’s injuries, evidence was presented at trial that prior to the accident Van was doing yard work, playing with his grandchildren, walking his dogs, swimming, and sitting for extended periods of time. Through the testimony of Van’s daughter and wife, it was established that the pain felt by Van following the accident would no longer allow him to do any of these activities. On top of this testimony, three separate expert witnesses, one who was even testifying on behalf of the at fault driver, stated that Van’s injuries were at least in part caused by the accident that occurred in 2007.
After a trial which lasted three days, the jury in the case returned a verdict finding that Van had not suffered an injury as a result of the 2007 accident. Shocked by this ruling, Van filed a motion for new trial arguing that the verdict was against the manifest weight of the evidence. Once a verdict had been returned in a jury trial, the judge holds a special inherent power to overrule the jury and order a new trial. In this case, the judge ruled that whether Van had been injured by the accident was conclusively proven by the expert witness testimony presented in the case. The Judge therefore ordered that the case be tried again so that this issue could be reexamined by a jury.
On appeal, the Florida Supreme Court ruled in favor of Van and allowed the trial judge to further consider the case. This ruling is important because it reaffirms two things. First, it is extremely important to make sure that at trial, all of the relevant evidence possible should admitted into evidence. This is critical for situations like this where the jury was mistaken about the evidence but the judge has a chance to grant a new trial. If Van’s attorney had not presented all of the evidence available, it would have been much more difficult for the judge to enter a judgment calling for a new trial. Second, almost nothing is more important than having an attorney who knows the law, has trial extensive trial experience, and has experience building a record for appeals Had the attorney in this case not built a good record during trial, the Florida Supreme Court may have been hard pressed to rule in favor of the Plaintiff on this issue.
This case is a perfect example of justice in action. It is important to remember that what may seem to be a simple fender bender can lead to horrendous medical costs and severe loss in a person’s quality of life. Although insurance companies may be quick to argue that no serious injuries could result from a small accident, we here at PIP Guru are dedicated to exposing all of the facts and getting our clients the medical benefits they deserve.
Furthermore, we have the legal knowledge and trial experience to make sure that our clients have the best chance possible of winning their case. If you believe that an insurance company has failed to adequately compensate you for your injuries as a result of a car accident, feel free to call us here at 305-821-3100 or 1-800 ACCIDENT.