A Reminder About The Need For Medical Evidence To Prove Your Personal Injury Case

If you have a Des Moines personal injury law matter, proving the defendant's liability is not enough. You also have to prove injuries and damages resulting from the defendant's fault. That's true regardless of whether your injuries were caused by a Des Moines car accidentDes Moines drunk driving accidentDes Moines truck accidentDes Moines motorcycle accidentDes Moines train accident, a defective producta dog bite, or nursing home negligence.

In a previous blog post I discussed the fact that medical evidence through a doctor is often essential to proving your injuries and damages in a personal injury case. That fact was emphasized by a bad result for the plaintiffs in the April 22, 2015 Iowa Court of Appeals decision in Reed v. Schaefer. The Reeds sued for personal injuries arising out of a car accident. They didn't get the damages the wanted from the jury. They appealed.

At trial the Reeds did not have their medical records in evidence. They also did not offer the testimony of any of their treating doctors. The jury returned a verdict in the Reeds' favor but only awarded medical expenses and a few thousand dollars on top of that.  On appeal the Reeds argued that the damages were inadequate. They sought a new trial.

One cause of the low damage award was the trial judge's ruling prohibiting the Reeds from offering any testimony concerning the nature and extent of permanency of their own conditions because they did not have the medical expertise required to render said opinions. Damages are available for future issues if an injury is proved to be one that'll last permanently (or even temporarily) into the future. But that proof has to come through a medical professional's testimony. The Reeds didn't have any such testimony so they were denied the opportunity to argue that they were entitled to future damages because of their permanent injuries. 

In her closing argument the defense attorney summarized the reasons why the jury could decline to award the Reeds substantial damages: "This is a personal injury lawsuit asking you to assess damages for injuries the Reeds suffered and they didn’t bring in any medical testimony. They didn’t bring in medical records, they didn’t bring in doctors, they didn’t bring in nurses. They didn’t bring in anyone to talk about the medical. You never heard a diagnosis, not one diagnosis. There was no doctor that limited [Mrs. Reed’s] activity, you didn’t hear a doctor saying how long the problems would last. You heard about all the nurses and doctors running around the emergency department, but none of them were called to testify, and it is [the Reeds’] burden of proof." 

The moral of the story: Don't get so caught up in proving the defendant's liability that you overlook securing the proof necessary to establish all the injuries and damages that you wish to make a claim for.

Harley Erbe