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Atlanta District Court Affirms Need for Proof of Causation in Car Accidents Raising Medical Questions

The Atlanta division of the United States District Court (N.D. Georgia) ruled in a recent case, Embry v. Vance, Dist. Court, ND Georgia 2013, regarding specific evidentiary requirements in cases involving medical questions.

The plaintiff filed the lawsuit following a car accident in DeKalb County, Georgia, seeking to recover medical expenses, lost wages, and damages for her pain and suffering. The defendants removed the case to federal court, and a discovery period followed. Discovery is the period of time during which the two parties to a lawsuit gather evidence from each other and other sources, through mechanisms such as asking written questions (interrogatories), asking questions in person (depositions), document requests, and other sources.

Following the discovery period, the court directed the parties to file for summary judgment or submit a pretrial order. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff’s failure to identify expert testimony for trial. They argued that this failure would prevent her from prevailing on her negligence claim because she must have an expert to establish causation. They further argue that the Plaintiff has produced no evidence whatsoever that could establish causation. The Plaintiff did not respond to the motion.

Summary judgment is a mechanism for dismissing a lawsuit that is only available when all of the filings and documents before the court show that there is no “genuine issue of material fact” that would entitle the non-moving party to prevail. In other words, in this case, the defendant is claiming that because the plaintiff did not provide any evidence that the auto accident caused her injuries, she cannot maintain a lawsuit saying that she did. You must prove your claim in order to prevail.

In her complaint, the plaintiff alleged that as a result of the accident, she suffers from “muscular atrophy, weakness, sensory loss, loss of reflexes and pain to her head consisting of serious migraine headaches and a closed head injury” as well as “pain and weakness of her back and neck and psychological trauma consisting of but not limited to post-traumatic stress syndrome.” (Compl. ¶ 9).

In negligence cases where the injuries alleged are not the type that are within common knowledge and experience, a medical question is involved, and proof relating to causation is required. Types of injuries that are within the common knowledge and experience following car accidents include things such as bruising, broken bones, and neck or back pain, as previously discussed on this blog.

When a claim raises a medical question, the plaintiff must provide evidence from an expert with specialized medical knowledge.

The court held that the plaintiff’s allegations of injuries to her nervous system implicate a “medical question” because the connection between the car accident and the extensive injuries to her nervous system is not “capable of resolution by ordinary people using their common knowledge and experience.” Since the plaintiff did not provide expert evidence regarding this medical question, the court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment in regards to the plaintiff’s claims relating to her nervous system and psychological injuries. Additionally, because the plaintiff failed to provide evidence demonstrating the causal connection between the defendant’s negligence and her pain and suffering and $10,000 in medical bills, this amounted to sufficient grounds to grant the motion in its entirety.

Unfortunately for the plaintiff, this case provides an excellent example of a common problem with perception about the legal system. If you are involved in a car accident, and suffer injuries as a result, even if it was clear to you, the defendant, and any witnesses to the collision, you must still prove your case. Even if you know the truth in your heart, and felt the injuries on impact, you must still fulfill the legal proof requirements.

This case affirms the principle that in an Atlanta car accident personal injury claim based on negligence, you must prove not only that the defendant acted in a legally blameworthy manner, but also that this failure was the proximate (direct) cause of your injuries and other damages.

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a car accident due to another individual’s negligent driving, consult an experienced Atlanta car accident attorney as soon as possible. Stephen M.  Ozcomert is a knowledgeable personal injury attorney with over 20 years of experience, and fully understands all of the elements required in successfully litigating personal injury cases on behalf of individuals and their families who have been injured as a result of the negligent or reckless driving of others in Atlanta and throughout Georgia. Call us today  at (404)-370-1000 in order to schedule your free initial consultation, or you can reach us through our website.

More Blog Posts:

Canadian Driver Charged with Vehicular Homicide in Deadly I-75 Accident, Atlanta Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, published November 11, 2013

Four Tragic Accidents in Metro Atlanta Tragic Start to November, Atlanta Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, published November 4, 2013


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