$4.5 Million Auto Accident Award Reversed Because Expert Witness Requirement Was Applied Incorrectly

The Nevada Supreme Court recently reversed a lower court’s ruling that awarded a personal injury plaintiff nearly $4.5 million for an auto accident claim. The initial ruling, which was entered by default against the defendant as a sanction for violating several pretrial orders against presenting a low-impact accident defense, will be set aside, and the plaintiff will be required to try the case again or agree to a settlement with the defendant.

gavel-1017953_960_720The Plaintiff and Defendant Were Involved in an Accident that Appeared Relatively Minor

The case, Rish v. Simao, involved an auto accident that , according to the Nevada Supreme Court’s opinion, occurred in relatively slow-moving, stop-and-go traffic. Although the plaintiff in the case refused medical treatment at the scene of the crash and claimed that he was not injured at the time, serious injuries allegedly developed in the days or weeks following the accident. Some time after the crash occurred, the plaintiff retained counsel and filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant, alleging that the defendant’s negligence resulted in serious and ongoing injuries that required significant medical treatment.

The Plaintiff Files a Pretrial Motion to Exclude Specific Defense Testimony

Relying on an interpretation of a prior Nevada case, the plaintiff successfully argued before trial that the defendant should not be permitted to argue that the crash was a low-impact crash, which couldn’t have caused the alleged injuries, without retaining a biomechanical engineer as an expert witness first. Agreeing with the plaintiff and finding that the defendant had not retained such an expert, the judge granted the plaintiff’s motion. The judge also ruled that the defendant would not be permitted to discuss the nature of the accident or show pictures from the accident scene to the jury at trial. This ruling left little room for the defendant to give a defense at trial without such an expert, but the case moved on.

The Defendant Ignores the Pretrial Orders, and the Ultimate Sanction Is Imposed by the Court

At trial on the plaintiff’s case, the defense repeatedly attempted to make statements or enter evidence that was in violation of the judge’s pretrial orders. Although several objections were made by the plaintiff’s attorney and sustained by the court, the defense continued trying to show to the jury the speed of the cars at the time of the accident and the small amount of damage that was caused in the crash. After the final instance of the defense violating the judge’s orders, the plaintiff’s counsel asked the court to strike the defendant’s answer to his claim and enter a default judgment in favor of his client. The Court granted the motion and eventually awarded the plaintiff nearly $4.5 million in damages.

The Defendant Appeals the Judgment, and the Nevada Supreme Court Reverses the Ruling

The defendant appealed the judgment, and the Nevada Supreme Court found several errors were made by the lower court that justified the award being vacated. The Court found that the trial court’s decision that forbade the defendant from discussing the nature of the accident or showing pictures of the damage to the cars was not proper. According to the appellate opinion, the requirement for a biomechanical engineer expert witness to argue that an accident was a “low-impact” accident did not bar the defendant from explaining to the jury the nature of the accident, nor should it exclude pictures depicting damage from the accident scene. Furthermore, the high court found that the trial court was excessive in striking the defendant’s answer and awarding full judgment to the plaintiff based on the violations of the overly broad pretrial order. Based on the latest order, the plaintiff will be required to try the case again to receive any damages for the injuries alleged to have been sustained in the accident

Expert Witness Requirements in a Virginia Accident Case

States have differing laws concerning the expert witness requirements to bring or defend a personal injury lawsuit. In a Virginia auto accident case, plaintiffs are not required to call a biomechanical engineer as an expert witness to show that an accident caused their injuries, although a medical expert witness may be called to discuss the development and treatment of injuries that resulted from an auto accident. Virginia accident plaintiffs should consult with a skilled and qualified Virginia accident attorney to ensure that their case has all the experts available to increase the likelihood of recovering fair compensation for their injuries.

Are You an Accident Victim?

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a Virginia car accident, the qualified Virginia, District of Columbia, and Maryland personal injury lawyers at Charles B. Roberts and Associates, PC can help make a case for you to recover damages from the responsible party through a Virginia personal injury lawsuit. Our aggressive and experienced attorneys are familiar with the expert witness requirements of various jurisdictions, and we will ensure that your case is handled professionally and without any unnecessary surprises. At Charles B. Roberts and Associates, we handle cases and have offices in the entire D.C. Metro area, including Arlington, Fredericksburg, and Woodbridge, Virginia, and throughout Northern Virginia, as well as Southern Maryland. Contact us by calling 703-491-7070 (Virginia) or 1-888-407-4529 (toll-free in Maryland and D.C.), or send us a message using our online form.

See More Blog Posts:

Federal Court Seeks Clarification of State Law in Premises Liability Lawsuit, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, April 4, 2016.

West Virginia Court Finds in Favor of Plaintiff in Road Rage Accident Case, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, March 25, 2016.