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Expert Testimony on Causation in a Georgia Car Accident Lawsuit

In a recent Georgia appellate decision, a woman was involved in a car accident with a couple, and the couple sued for medical expenses that arose from the accident. During the trial, the defendant admitted that she was liable for the collision, but she disagreed that she’d caused the plaintiffs’ injuries and disagreed with how much was awarded in damages. The husband was awarded $734,563.78.

The defendant appealed the denial of her motion for a new trial to argue that:  (1) the lower court made a mistake in applying the wrong legal standard by restricting her biomechanical expert’s testimony and stopping him from testifying that the force created in the collision was enough to cause the husband’s herniated discs and back, and (2) the lower court made a mistake in not granting her motion for a directed verdict on a claim for future medical expenses.

Before trial, one of the plaintiffs moved to stop the defendant’s biomechanical expert from testifying about his opinion that the force created by the collision couldn’t have caused the plaintiff’s spinal injuries. The defendant’s attorney said that at first he thought that the expert could testify about the forces particular to the accident and whether these forces were strong enough to cause the particular claimed injuries in the case.

The defendant’s attorney changed his position and said that the expert wouldn’t ever get to the ultimate question of whether the forces in the crash caused the disc herniations as claimed by the plaintiff. However, during the trial, the defendant’s attorney asked whether the cervical herniation claimed in the case would have happened because of the accident. Once the plaintiff’s attorney objected, the defendant’s attorney offered to rephrase the question to comply with the court’s order on the motion in limine. However, the defendant’s attorney didn’t argue that the question was consistent with the order on the motion in limine, nor did he ask the lower court to reconsider its order. Instead, he took his question back and put in a different question that complied with the court order.

In representing to the lower court that he wouldn’t ask the expert whether forces involved in the collision caused disc herniations, the court found that the defendant’s attorney had waived the issue. The lower court had held that no matter how incorrect the ruling might have been, the litigant couldn’t submit to a ruling, agree with the ruling, and still complain. The attorney should stand his ground and fight in order to successfully set forth as error an incorrect ruling by the lower court judge. He agreed that the lower court’s ruling was accurate by submitting to it.

The appellate court explained that affirmatively waiving the issue, as opposed to simply failing to object, stopped the court from finding plain error. The decision to identify an issue and expressly withdraw it waived the concern.

The defendant also argued that the lower court had made a mistake in not granting a directed verdict on the plaintiff’s future medical expenses claim because it failed to meet the burden of establishing medical costs with a reasonable degree of certainty. The appellate court disagreed, explaining that the evidence was sufficient to establish the plaintiff’s losses in a way that could allow a calculation with a reasonable degree of certainty.

The lower court’s decision was affirmed.

If you were harmed in a car accident in Atlanta or elsewhere in Georgia, you should talk about your situation with seasoned personal injury attorney Stephen M. Ozcomert. He has more than 20 years of experience. Call us at (404) 370-1000 or contact us via our website.