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Pennsylvania Superior Court Case Reviews Whether Award of Damages Was Proper in Auto Accident Case

In most Pennsylvania automobile accident cases, four elements must be shown in order to recover damages, or monies spent as a result of the car accident to be in better health:  1) duty to the injured person, 2) failure to uphold that duty, 3) injury as a result of the failure, and 4) the cost of the injuries suffered in order to be made whole again.  Occasionally, the at-fault party concedes that he or she caused the accident, and the focus of the litigation centers on how much liability should be assigned to him or her. 

In Flenke vs. Huntington, the at-fault driver did exactly that and conceded that he caused the injured motorist’s injuries.  The dispute was that the injured party believed that the accident caused significant spinal injuries, resulting in several types of surgeries costing around $75,000.  The at-fault driver’s expert opined that the injured party only suffered strained muscles or sprained ligaments in his neck and back, and that the medical issues surrounding the extensive spinal injuries were attributable to the injured driver’s degenerative arthritis.

A common issue addressed in personal injury cases is whether or not the injured party suffered from a “pre-existing condition,” which is a medical problem that existed prior to the accident or incident that is alleged to have caused the injury.   In other words, the defendant will claim that he or she may be found responsible for the accident, but that the accident did not cause all the medical treatment sought following the accident, and ultimately he or she should not be held responsible for every medical bill that the injured person produces. 

In Flenke, the jury awarded the injured driver $30,000 after a three-day trial.  The injured driver appealed, arguing that the defense expert, who testified to much more limited injuries, was not fully cross-examined in a way that would have revealed his bias against injured plaintiffs.  The Superior Court reviewed the witness’s testimony that was allowed by the trial judge.  The expert acknowledged that he had not treated the patient and merely had a 30-minute meeting with him.  The expert also acknowledged that he was paid for his time in this case and earned over $100,000 in the last three years for his examinations and depositions.  The Superior Court then looked at the closing arguments of the injured person’s counsel, who emphasized the money made by the defense expert was a result of a formulaic bias.  The Superior Court felt that the amount of evidence allowed and the plaintiff attorney’s ability to argue bias precluded the need for a new trial.  The original award of $30,000 to the injured driver was upheld.

This case reveals the complexities of personal injury litigation and the importance of experienced counsel efficiently and expertly using expert witness testimony to the injured’s advantage.  The Pennsylvania auto accident attorneys at Needle Law Firm are here to help maximize the recovery you deserve.  For a consultation, call today at 570-344-1266.

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