California Court of Appeals Upholds Jury Award in Three-Car Accident

The California Court of Appeals recently rendered an opinion concerning a jury award in a car accident case. The opinion, Webster v. Miles, Cal. Ct. App., 5th Dist. (2014), examined the reasonableness of a jury trial that awarded the plaintiff in a car accident case some $9,395 in past economic damages for medical expenses, property damage, and a rental car, and $250 in past non-economic loss. The plaintiff contended that the damages award was inadequate as a matter of law, arguing that, since the jury found that she was injured as a result of the accident, the fact that they only awarded her a partial amount of her medical expenses and a small amount for pain and suffering was improper.

The facts of the accident were as follows. The defendant, Peggy Miles, was driving a Lincoln Continental when she rear-ended the plaintiff’s Chevrolet Malibu, which was stopped at a red light. The impact pushed the plaintiff’s car into a truck stopped in front of her. The damage to the plaintiff’s car was minimal, her air bags did not deploy, and she was able to drive it away from the scene.

The plaintiff was transported via ambulance to a local hospital, as she complained of pain to her head and neck. She was treated with a shot for pain, and after the doctors ran some tests, she was sent home. The plaintiff did not have any visible cuts or bruises following the accident.

For many months following the accident, the plaintiff complained of having muddled mental processes and unrelenting pain in her head, even though she did not initially complain of head pain, and a CT scan did not reveal any brain injury. She underwent many months of physical therapy and was given strong prescription medications for pain.

At trial, the plaintiff and defendant both presented evidence via several medical expert witnesses. There was conflicting evidence as to whether the plaintiff’s medical problems were entirely attributable to the car accident, or due to other issues, such as a stressful personal life and childhood. The defendant’s experts, for example, testified that the force of the accident (since the original collision occurred at only 15 miles per hour), was only strong enough to cause muscle strains, not brain injury, and therefore the only injuries attributable to the accident were not related to her brain.

The overturning of a jury award is only proper when the result essentially shocks the conscience. Instead, however, the court found that by awarding the plainitff less than the full amount of medical expenses requested, “the jury necessarily agreed with the defense experts, finding that not all of Webster’s medical problems were caused by the accident. And further, that [b]ased on the evidence, the jury reasonably could find this was a low-impact accident that resulted only in minor muscle strains, and that while Webster was entitled to recover the cost to treat those strains, she did not suffer any significant physical pain or mental suffering as a result of them and therefore was entitled to only a nominal amount of damages for pain and suffering.”

Therefore, the court affirmed the lower court decision.

If you have been injured in a car accident, it is important to retain counsel as soon as practicable. Doing so can ensure that you are not taken advantage of by insurance adjusters and will allow you to focus on nursing your injuries, rather than the hassle of dealing with car insurance claims or an impending lawsuit.  The experienced California car accident lawyers at Sharifi Firm, APC have significant experience in handling car accident cases throughout the state.  Contact us today for a free consultation. We can be reached through this website, or by calling (323) 848-9904.

More Blog Posts:
California Court of Appeals Upholds Jury Decision in Car Accident Case, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, published February 17, 2015
California Court of Appeals Upholds $1.25 Million Jury Award in Car Accident Case, Southern California Injury Lawyer Blog, published February 24, 2015

Contact Information