Texas Court of Appeals Affirms Modest Judgment in Low Impact Car Accident Case in Which the Injured Driver Relied Primarily on Testimony by Non-Treating Chiropractic Expert Witness

In an east Texas car accident case, the plaintiff has the burden of proving not only that the defendant was negligent and caused the accident but also that there was a link of proximate causation between the defendant’s breach of the duty of care and the damages for which the plaintiff seeks compensation. This can be a difficult task in some cases.

The attorneys who are hired by the insurance companies of careless drivers are quick to point out any flaws or weaknesses in the plaintiff’s case, as their ultimate goal is to pay out as little as possible on each claim. They can sometimes be particularly effective at discounting the testimony of expert witnesses whom they believe are unqualified to render an opinion about the nature and/or extent of the plaintiff’s injuries and associated medical costs.

Facts of the Case

In a car crash lawsuit recently considered on appeal, the plaintiff was a motorist who was rear-ended by the defendant driver while stopped at a red light. At the time of the collision, the parties agreed that it was a minor accident and that it was not necessary to call the police. A few days after the accident, the plaintiff begin to experience pain in his lower back, hip, and wrist. The plaintiff later sought medical care, which included chiropractic care, an MRI (which showed two disk protrusions or herniations), physical therapy, and steroid injections.

The case proceeded to a jury trial, at which the plaintiff presented affidavits showing that he had incurred in excess of $25,000 in medical expenses. The jury ruled in favor of the plaintiff but awarded him only $410 for past medical care and nothing for any of the other elements of damages that the plaintiff had sought. After the trial court entered judgment on the jury’s verdict, the plaintiff appealed.

The Court’s Decision

The Court of Appeals for the First District of Texas affirmed, holding that the evidence upon which the jury relied in reaching their verdict was not “so weak” as to be clearly wrong, nor were the jury’s findings so against the great weight and preponderance of the evidence as to make the result unjust. Although the plaintiff argued on appeal that a certain chiropractor whom he offered as an expert witness should have been allowed to testify about the results of his MRI, the court rejected this argument, noting that the chiropractor in question was testifying as an expert rather than as a treating medical provider and that he had not actually treated patients in over 10 years. Notably, the chiropractor had not actually treated the plaintiff, nor had he reviewed the MRI films. Under the circumstances, the court found that the chiropractor was not qualified to testify as to the results of the plaintiff’s MRI.

As to the low verdict entered by the jury, the court pointed out that, while the plaintiff’s evidence was sufficient to establish the amount of his medical expenses, the affidavits upon which he relied did not address the element of causation, i.e. whether the defendant’s negligence was the proximate cause of the injuries for which the plaintiff sought medical treatment. In the reviewing court’s opinion, the jury could have resolved the issue of causation in the defendant’s favor, given that the collision was low impact (5 mph or less, according to the defendant’s testimony) and that that several days passed between the accident and the time that the plaintiff sought medical attention.

Schedule an Appoint to Discuss an Automobile Accident in East Texas

At Earl Drott Law, we have over 30 years of experience representing the families of those injured or killed in car accidents. If you need to talk to an experienced east Texas car accident lawyer about a potential case against a negligent or reckless motorist, call us at 903-531-9300 or contact us through this website. Please remember that car wreck cases are subject to a statute of limitations, so it is important that you speak with legal counsel about your case as soon as possible.

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