Safe Harbor Letter

Preparation Always Pays off: Especially at Trial

Claims Alleged: Personal Injury Resulting from Automobile Accident

Injuries Alleged: Re-Herniation of Disc; Multiple Bodily Injuries – Read on to Find Out

Amount Claimed: $1,200,000

The Overview

Smith Freed Eberhard obtained a defense verdict in favor of its client by effectively cross examining the plaintiff’s expert witness to show the jury that the plaintiff had given the expert only a portion of the relevant evidence.

The Background

In this automobile accident case, the driver of a car (the plaintiff) filed suit against the driver of another car (the defendant) alleging that the defendant rear-ended his car on the highway. Although the impact was minimal, the plaintiff sought $1,200,000 in damages, claiming that he suffered a re-herniation of a disc in his low back and that he was disabled as a result of the accident and can no longer work. Further, he claimed that the accident caused injuries to his neck, shoulder, left leg, and left arm and that he suffered from headaches, bladder issues, and insomnia. Smith Freed Eberhard was asked to represent the defendant.

The Strategy

Initial investigation and discovery revealed that the plaintiff had preexisting injuries. In fact, many of the plaintiff’s claims were similar to his complaints before the accident. We decided that it would be unwise to deny liability. Instead, it would be wiser to attack the plaintiff on the allegation that the accident with our client was a direct cause of his injuries.

As trial approached, the defense team worked hard to obtain and prepare evidence to attack the plaintiff’s credibility. Evidence was prepared that would support the position we intended to take at trial: while there is no dispute that the defendant was at fault, the plaintiff had many preexisting injuries, and it was unlikely that such a minor rear-end accident could have caused the nature and extent of the injuries as claimed by the plaintiff.

The defense went to trial with a strong line-up of experts who thoroughly reviewed all the available evidence and came to the same conclusion. The accident reconstruction expert, the doctor who performed an Independent Medical Examination (“IME”) of the plaintiff, and the biomechanical expert were prepared and presented well to the jury. The experts’ evidence pointed to the fact that it was unlikely that the plaintiff’s injuries were related to the accident with Smith Freed Eberhard’s client.

The defense cross-examined the plaintiff and expert witnesses who testified on their behalf. In classic Smith Freed Eberhard fashion, the attorney made sure that the jury could see the contradictions between the plaintiff’s medical records and his testimony during depositions. We cross-examined the plaintiff’s IME doctor and found that the plaintiff had not provided the doctor with information relevant to his testimony at trial. For instance, the doctor did not obtain various missing pre-accident records and did not know that the plaintiff missed significant hours of work before the accident. When questioned, the doctor had no choice but to admit that without all the evidence, he was unable to testify to a degree of medical certainty that the injuries suffered by the plaintiff were related to the accident with our client.

The Outcome

Ultimately, the Smith Freed Eberhard approach applied to the case, strategy at trial, and help of a fantastic legal team proved to be successful. After just 40 minutes of deliberations the jury returned a verdict for the defense, finding that the plaintiff was not entitled to any damages.

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