Defendant Appeals Damages Assessment After Admitting Negligence In Car Accident
In some cases, the matter of negligence is already settled before a case hits a jury. Instead, the two parties dispute the amount of damages the plaintiff is entitled to. The defendant alleges that the plaintiff is overstating the extent of their injuries and believes they should pay less than the plaintiff demands. The plaintiff believes their injuries are extensive enough to warrant more money. In these cases, a jury decides how injured the plaintiff is based on medical records and the testimony of medical experts. The defense provides their own medical experts, and the jury is required to make a determination as to what sort of compensation is fair.
One such case involved a plaintiff who suffered personal injuries following an automobile accident. In this case, the defendant admitted fault and the jury assessed $8,632 in damages for previous medical expenses and another $42,000 in future medical expenses and pain and suffering. The defendant appealed the verdict on the basis that the accident did not cause $42,000 in future medical expenses and the jury erred on the basis of causation.
Issues factoring into the decision to appeal
The plaintiff was admitted to the emergency room directly following the accident. After receiving treatment, she was told to return to the emergency room if she had any serious setbacks. She was also told to follow up with a primary care physician within a few days of the accident to determine if there were lingering issues. The plaintiff never showed up for this appointment. She claimed that she had no recollection of the emergency room visit and did not know that she was instructed to follow up with a primary.
Within a few days of the accident, she hired an attorney to litigate the case on her behalf. The attorney referred her to a chiropractor who continued to see the patient for a few months. The treatment appeared to work, but the next year, the plaintiff testified her symptoms began to worsen. She complained of headaches and neck pain. She said that further medical intervention alleviated her symptoms, but did not entirely get rid of them. The symptoms returned within months of treatment. The plaintiff was able to continue working but stated she had limitations with lifting and her quality of life was decreased.
Why did this decision end up being appealed?
In this case, the trial court issued a directed verdict concerning causation and damages. However, Illinois requires that a directed verdict be irrefutable on the facts. The defense was able to call into question whether or not the $42,000 award was justified based on the mere fact that it had disputed claims related to the plaintiff’s injury. In other words, the plaintiff had not fully established that her injuries were entirely related to the car accident. The issue of causation thus should have been left to the jury to decide. The ruling was overturned and remanded back to the trial court to retry the matter of damages.
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