Eyewitness testimony in car accident cases can come down to the two parties in the accident, who often provide conflicting accounts of what happened. In these cases, it may be necessary to use an expert witness to help determine what occurred at the time of the accident. A recent decision issued from Florida’s First District Court of Appeals in Boyles v. Dillard’s Inc. (1D14-5276) addressed whether or not the trial court erred in allowing testimony from the defendant’s expert accident reconstructionist, and whether the defense counsel’s conduct was prejudicial enough to warrant a new trial. The court determined that the admission of the defendant’s expert witness testimony was appropriate, but the conduct of the defendant’s lawyer was not appropriate and unfair to the injured woman. Due to the latter concern, the jury verdict was vacated and the case remanded back to the lower court.
The woman in Boyles was injured after her car was struck by a delivery van driven by a department store employee. Her car was in front of the delivery van in the same lane until she attempted to turn into her driveway. The injured woman claimed that she directly turned right into her driveway when she was hit, but the delivery driver claimed that she went into the left lane before turning right, leaving him no time to avoid the collision. The woman alleged she suffered injuries to her shoulder, neck, and back. The defense produced an expert witness to help reconstruct the accident scene for the jury.
The appellate court disagreed with the injured woman’s assertion that the trial court erred in allowing the expert’s testimony at trial. The woman argued that the expert was not qualified to testify about the degree of injury she suffered because of the accident. The appellate court disagreed, determining that she misconstrued relevant case law regarding biomechanics’ expert testimony. Prior rulings in this district have held that while a biomechanics expert is not allowed to give a medical opinion regarding the extent of an injury, they are allowed to give an opinion as to whether the mechanism of the injury was caused by the accident. The appellate court felt that the testimony was within these parameters and affirmed the lower court’s ruling on this issue.
However, the court did not agree with the defense attorney’s comments regarding the injured woman’s deposition during closing arguments. The deposition had not been entered into evidence during the trial, but the defense attorney referred to it in an attempt to discredit the injured woman’s testimony about her actions before the collision. The injured woman testified that she tapped the brakes to take her vehicle off cruise control before turning into her driveway. The defense attorney pointed out during closing arguments that she never mentioned this during her deposition, which had not been discussed at all during the trial until that point. The injured woman argued that this was inappropriate, since it inferred dishonesty based on a statement not introduced at the trial. The trial court denied her motion for mistrial, instead attempting to correct it by instructing the jury to disregard statements made by the defense attorney. The appellate court did not feel this was enough, especially since attorneys are guided by long-standing professional rules of ethics and trial practices. The Court of Appeals found the trial court to have abused its discretion, reversing in part and remanding for a new trial.
The Florida car accident attorneys at Donaldson & Weston understand it is necessary to stand firm and push back against tactics used by insurance companies and defense attorneys to avoid liability and limit damages. Our experienced lawyers can aggressively pursue all avenues of legal relief available. Call our office today at 772-266-5555 or 561-299-3999 for a free, confidential consultation.
More Blog Posts:
Florida District Appellate Decision Allows Woman Injured by Slip and Fall to Pursue Negligence Action Against County, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, April 19, 2016
Florida District Court of Appeal Reviews Grocery Store Slip-and-Fall Case, South Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, March 9, 2016