Woman injured in car accident deserved more than "zero" damages

Imagine that you are in a motor vehicle accident, and that the other party acknowledges they are responsible for the accident. Now further imagine that you have medical proof that you suffered damage from the accident. Would you find it fair or reasonable if a jury decided you were owed nothing?

That is what almost happened in the case of Watson v. Payne, at least until the victim appealed to the Tennessee Court of Appeals.

Defendant admits liability in rear-end collision

The 74-year-old victim in this case was injured in a motor vehicle accident in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. She was a passenger in a pick-up truck which was stopped for traffic when it was struck from behind by another pick-up truck operated by the defendant.

The victim sought damages for her physical injuries, emotional suffering, past and future medical costs, loss of enjoyment of life and other costs. The defendant admitted to the rear-end collision and so the jury trial was limited to the issue of damages. The victim presented medical evidence to support her claim.

Unfortunately for the victim, the jury awarded damages in the amount of "zero" dollars. The victim asked for a new trial or, in the alternative, asked the trial judge to add damages equaling at least the victim's undisputed past medical bills as well as some future medical bills, but the trial court denied these requests. The victim appealed.

Evidence supported an award of damages

The Court of Appeals noted that the defendant's liability was not disputed in this case. Rather, the only issue was whether the victim suffered a compensable injury as a result of the defendant's collision.

The victim's doctor, who had been treating her prior to the accident, believed the victim had suffered a cervical neck strain or a whiplash-type injury which caused chronic headaches after the collision, and that the accident had aggravated her preexisting lower back condition. He also testified that the collision necessitated the medical tests and subsequent treatments received by the victim.

The record also contained a report from a hospital indicating that a CT scan of the victim's head was performed, and correspondence from her doctor stating that the sudden motion caused by the collision resulted in a combination of whiplash associated disorder, mild traumatic brain injury and lumbar strain.

The victim had not been compensated for the expenses arising from her post-accident evaluation, and the medical experts appearing on behalf of both parties agreed that such expenses were both reasonable and necessary. There was no evidence in the record to refute the experts' testimony.

Thus, the Court of Appeals determined that the jury's award of zero dollars was not within the range of reasonableness in this rear-end collision case. The evidence in the record, including the expert proof offered by the defendant, supported an award of damages to the victim. The case was therefore returned to the trial court for further proceedings.

Compensation for your injuries

If you are injured in a motor vehicle accident, you should be compensated for your injuries. It is important you hire a qualified attorney willing to fight on your behalf. Seek an experienced personal injury attorney who will secure a fair and favorable settlement for any current and long-term medical expenses, lost wages, or pain you may be suffering as a result of your injuries.