This past March, Florida’s Second District Court of Appeals tackled an important issue in the case of Smith v. Llamas, addressing the inquiry as to whether a Florida car accident victim’s injuries are temporary or permanent and if this question should be answered by a jury. The Court ultimately held that the permanency of injuries is a question of fact, and, as such, is the sole province of the jury.
In Smith, Fernando Llamas was injured in car accident when his vehicle collided with that of Shana Smith. Llamas sued Smith for negligence, claiming that that he had suffered significant injuries to his neck and knee in the accident. Smith maintained that she was only partially responsible for the collision and, pursuant to Florida’s comparative negligence doctrine, her liability must be reduced by the proportion of Llamas’ liability.
At trial, Llamas presented expert testimony by a neurosurgeon stating that Llamas’ neck injury was permanent due to the fact that surgery could not completely eliminate the injury. In rebuttal, Smith’s expert, an orthopedic surgeon, testified that Llamas’ neck injury was not permanent and was not caused by the accident.
Llamas had another doctor testify that his knee injury was permanent and caused by the accident, however, Smith argued that the doctor’s conclusion was based on an inconsistent and inaccurate medical history that was provided by Llamas.
After trial, a jury determined that Smith was entirely liable for the accident and awarded Llamas approximately $40,000 in damages, for past medical expenses. The jury concluded that Llamas’ injuries were not permanent and therefore did not award any future medical expenses. Llamas moved for a new trial, arguing that the evidence presented at trial established that he had sustained permanent injuries related to the crash. The trial court agreed and granted Llamas a new trial.
On appeal, the Second District reversed the trial court, holding that the trial court had abused its discretion by setting aside the jury verdict. Florida law states that, to set aside a jury verdict, it must be so unjust to warrant a new trial and “the evidence must be clear, obvious, and indisputable.”
Citing this standard, the Court opined that there was “conflicting evidence on whether Llamas sustained a permanent neck injury in the accident” and the jury could have properly determined that “Llamas did not sustain any knee injury as a result of the accident in light of evidence that he provided an inaccurate medical history and did not seek treatment for a knee injury until eight months after the accident.”
The degree and permanency of a victim’s injuries are often one of the most hotly contested issues that arise with regard to motor vehicle accident cases. The Miami car accident attorneys of Gerson and Schwartz have extensive experience representing individuals who have been injured in car accidents. If you or someone you know has been injured by the negligence of another, contact us today.