I have written articles about pre-existing injuries and how they might affect your Florida car accident claim and I have written about the importance of candor with your attorney and physicians regarding your medical condition and history. However, I recently came across a case in which two issues were presented with disastrous results for the client.
Hernandez v. Gonzalez
The Plaintiffs, Carmen Hernandez and Carmen Feliz, were involved in a car accident in which their vehicle was rear ended by a car driven by Alexis Gonzalez and owned by Linda Gonzalez. In Florida, if you allow someone to drive your car, in addition to the driver bearing responsibility for the accident, the owner will be liable for the negligent actions of the driver. Essentially, if you lend your car and the person borrowing your car causes a car accident, you will be liable for the damages.
After the car accident, the plaintiffs immediately went to the emergency room and underwent diagnostic treatment. They explained their injuries to the doctors and sought further medical care to treat their injuries. The plaintiffs were able to present expert testimony at trial that the damages suffered were caused by the defendants. In fact, at trial, defendants admitted liability which put to rest any argument that the plaintiffs contributed to causing this car accident. This sounds great so far, right? A rear end car accident in which the defendants admit liability that required medical treatment and testing sounds like a slam dunk. However, the case was submitted to the jury and the plaintiffs were awarded ZERO.
The big question now, is where did it all go wrong for these plaintiffs?
Causation is Required to Recover in a Florida Car Accident Case
I have intentionally left out the defenses raised in the Gonzalez case. At trial, the defense provided expert testimony indicating that the plaintiffs’ injuries were unrelated to the car accident and were instead the result of pre-existing conditions. There is nothing surprising about this type of testimony. They also presented evidence which demonstrated that the plaintiffs had pre-existing medical conditions that coincided with the injuries they claimed were suffered in the car accident. Again, there is nothing surprising about pre-existing injuries. Auto accidents often re aggravate old injuries. Injuries which have not caused pain in years can suddenly flair up following a car accident. It is certainly not the death knell to a car accident claim.
However, the defense also showed that the plaintiffs failed to disclose prior accidents to their treating physicians. They also failed to disclose that the injuries suffered in the new car accident were of the same kind as injuries suffered in the earlier accident. The defense was also able to present evidence that the plaintiffs were laughing and joking around in the emergency room. This is the type of evidence that defense counsel will have a field day with at trial. The plaintiffs were painted as dishonest and merely seeking to have the plaintiffs bear the financial responsibility for injuries which were unrelated to the car accident. In Florida, a person involved in a car accident must show that the other party was at least partially at fault for the accident and that the accident caused the injuries for which the plaintiff is seeking compensation. In this case, the jury simply did not believe that the plaintiffs had suffered any injury which was caused by the most recent car accident.
Candor with Medical Professionals
First, always be candid with your physicians. If you are not candid then it is much more difficult for your physician to reach a proper medical diagnosis. I have no idea whether the two plaintiffs in the Gonzalez case were truly injured from the car accident and were just forgetful or if they were attempting to scam the system. The jury was certainly convinced that they were entitled to recover anything.
Some people get nervous and intentionally fail to disclose facts that they believe will be damaging to their case. In many instance they believe that they will not be able to recover for new injuries if they have been injured in prior car accidents. This is simply not true. However, withholding crucial information is seldom a wise course of action. Remember, at trial, you will be fighting an insurance company with vast resources and access to all reported car accidents. Before trial, the insurance company will also be granted right to request and inspect the plaintiff’s medical records. It becomes a very dangerous and unethical game of cat and mouse to attempt to hide relevant information from medical professionals which can have devastating effects on your health and your car accident case.
Contact a St. Petersburg Car Accident Attorney at Jones Law Group
Have you or a loved one been injured in a car accident? Contact an experienced St. Petersburg personal injury law firm today. When you contact our office we will immediately set an appointment where you will meet your attorney and be provided with his/her personal contact information. If you do not have transportation or you cannot drive, your attorney will travel to meet you and discuss your case with you.
If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of a slip and fall, a car accident, a motorcycle accident, a bicycle accident or a pedestrian accident, you should immediately call an experienced personal injury attorney in St. Petersburg at Jones Law Group at (727) 571-1333 during regular business hours or (727) 753-8657 on weekends or after regular business hours. We will evaluate your case for free and you will never pay us a dime unless we recover compensation for your injuries.
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5622 Central Avenue
St. Pete, FL 33707