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Miami Personal Injury Lawyers Analyze Decision Denying Damage Award Based on Lack of “Reasonable Certainty”

While our personal injury lawyers frequently discuss the standards and evidence involved in proving liability, the process of establishing the amount of a party’s damages is no less important.  Medical bills, payroll records, and vehicle repair receipts can provide a way to quantify economic damages.  The process is more complicated when trying to prove future estimated damages.  Although testimony from a vocational counselor, economist, medical professional, or another expert might provide evidence about future damages that will be incurred, a recent appellate court decision demonstrates that plaintiffs need skilled legal representation to effectively litigate this aspect of a judgment.

In the 5th DCA case of Auto Club Ins. Co. of Florida v. Babin, the appellate court reviewed a directed verdict in favor of the plaintiff regarding damages.  The plaintiff was injured in a multi-car chain reaction crash.  The first at-fault motorist who caused the initial impact did not have adequate insurance to cover the full cost of the plaintiff’s damages.  While that driver’s insurance company did not dispute liability, the carrier tenaciously argued the plaintiff was not entitled to all of the sought after damages.

The plaintiff sought damages to cover future back surgery, past lost earning from employment, and anticipated diminished future earnings from his scuba-diving business.  After the evidence was produced during trial, the jury awarded the plaintiff the following damages:

$30,000 for pain and suffering

$120,000 for past hospital and medical expenses

$72,000 in diminished earning capacity

$70,000 for past lost wages

$160,000 for future medical costs

The insurance carrier for the defendant appealed certain specific components of the award of damages.  Testimony provided by the plaintiff’s medical expert indicated that the plaintiff “might” need major reconstructive spinal surgery in the future if other less invasive approaches were unsuccessful.  While the expert characterized the plaintiff’s back as being a “mess,” he conceded that the injury made the need for surgical intervention essential.  The defendant’s insurance carrier contended that this expert testimony was not sufficient to meet the standard that damages be necessary.  The insurance company argued that the expert’s testimony confirmed the future medical expenses were too speculative because they did not provide a reasonable certainty that the plaintiff would need the back surgery.

 The insurer for the defendant contended that the award of lost future income also was too speculative.  The plaintiff’s employment history included time as both an educator and law enforcement officer.  While he completed coursework to obtain certification as a divemaster, he also had contemplated the option of opening a business for training guide dogs.  The appellate court ruled that no future lost wages should have been awarded because the plaintiff was capable of earning wages at occupations other than diving.  The court also found no past lost wages should have been awarded because the plaintiff was unemployed at the time of the motor vehicle accident.

Greenberg, Stone, & Urbano:  Seeking Maximum Recovery for Damages Sustained Due to Negligence 

 This case demonstrates the complex issues that can arise when trying to prove the full measure of your damages.  Our Miami accident and injury lawyers at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano tenaciously pursue the fullest financial compensation for our clients.  For over 130 collective years, our firm has assisted accident victims in personal injury and wrongful death actions across South Florida.

We seek to obtain compensation for your tangible and intangible damages, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.  Our skill and dedication have earned us an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell and recognition as one of South Florida’s top firms by the Miami Herald.   Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.


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