Florida Appellate Court Reinstates Injured Automobile Passenger Award of Over $93,000

In a personal injury action, several experts are often consulted to assist parties and fact-finders during negotiations and at trial.  Expert witnesses are treated differently by the courts.  Lay witnesses are used to simply relay what they saw, heard, or experienced.  Experts are required to have specialized knowledge that is relevant to the explanation they are retained to provide.  Depending on what explanation is needed, qualified medical experts could help explain the injury itself or the physical consequences of having the injury.

empty-shell-2-1354193-640x480For example, a podiatrist and a physical therapist may respectively describe the medical intricacies of the injury to a foot and the length and depth of the recovery process. A different sort of physician, like an obstetrician, would probably not pass legal muster to testify about a foot injury, since her or his focus and training would have been about a different area of the body.

In a recently published Third District Appellate Court case, Rojas vs. Rodriguez (No. 3D15-277), the defendant argued that a neurosurgeon should not have provided testimony regarding a passenger’s injury. The at-fault party admitted liability, but the case went to trial to determine whether or not the accident caused the injured person in a car to suffer a herniated disc. The neurosurgeon, called by the victim to testify, stated that the herniated disc injury was consistent with the twisting the passenger would have experienced when the vehicle spun after impact. The at-fault driver argued that only an accident deconstructionist or a biomechanics expert should have provided testimony of that nature to the jury. While the objection was made during trial and during post-trial motions, the at-fault driver did not make a formal Daubert objection, which refers to the main legal standard that determines when an expert witness is qualified to testify.

The District Court of Appeal did not really look into the merits of the defendant’s objection regarding the qualifications of the neurosurgeon in relation to his testimony. Instead, the court felt the appeal centered around whether or not the objection was raised in a timely fashion. Florida case law considers the exclusion of an expert witness to be a drastic remedy that should only be available under compelling circumstances. The appellate court explained that it would have been in the defendant’s interest to raise the Daubert objection earlier by requesting a separate hearing before the trial court, so there was time for the trial court to perform a “gate-keeping” function, as opposed to a “gotcha” objection during trial. The appellate court felt the trial court erred in granting the defendant’s motion and reinstated the jury verdict for the injured passenger.

The Florida car accident attorneys at Donaldson & Weston have the personal injury experience you need to push back against aggressive defense tactics. We know every dollar is vital to an injured person, and we work tirelessly to maximize your damages. For a free, confidential consultation, call 772-266-5555 or 561-299-3999.

More Blog Posts:

Florida District Appeals Court Reviews Notice Requirements for Insured to Receive Personal Injury Protection Benefits, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, October 13, 2015

Knowing How a Rejection of Uninsured/Underinsured Auto Insurance Coverage in Florida Affects You and Your Family, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, October 6, 2015