Someone’s carelessness may cause your injury. You could get hurt yet again in a totally unrelated accident.
Will the 2nd accident affect your personal injury claim for the first accident?
Maybe. Though most personal injury cases settle before trial, you should know what the jury will be asked to decide in your case.
If you have subsequent injuries/multiple events, the jury will be told the following:
“You have heard that (claimant) may have been injured in two events. If you decide that (claimant) was injured by (defendant) and was later injured by another event, then you should try to separate the damages caused by the two events and award (claimant) money only for those damages caused by (defendant).” Florida Civil Jury Instructions 501.5(b)
Subsequent means “coming after” or “following”.
If jury can’t separate damages, you get all of them
However, if the jury cannot separate some or all of the damages, then they must award (claimant) any damages that they cannot separate as if they were all caused by the first accident.
In Florida, will a jury get to a hear about the incident that occurred after the initial accident?
Maybe. If they do, it may decrease the full value of a personal injury case.
This is, in part, because a jury may decide that the subsequent accident caused your injury.
Can you still have a great case even though you’ve had a subsequent accident?
Yes. However, having a subsequent fall may present an additional hurdle.
Are personal injury cases worth more if you haven’t had any subsequent incidents since the accident?
All things equal, yes. The insurance company looks for anything that may decrease your case value. A subsequent accident may decrease the value.
Recent Florida Cases and Verdicts that talk about Subsequent Accidents
Let’s look at a recent South Florida case that discusses the effect of a subsequent accident on the initial accident.
Man Injured in Car Crash; Then has Golf Cart Incident
In September 2009, automobiles driven by Maniglia and Carpenter collided while Maniglia was changing lanes on I-95 at night. The collision damaged the right rear area of Maniglia’s vehicle and the left front of Carpenter’s auto.
Dispute Over Severity of the Car Crash
Maniglia and his brother (a passenger in Maniglia’s vehicle) maintained that it was only a bump; Carpenter maintained that it was a severe sideswiping.
This is common in car crash cases. Pictures will often be the most objective (unbiased) evidence in a car accident case.
Claimant goes to chiropractor
Dr. Napoli later testified that:
- x-rays taken that day showed no signs of acute injury
- They revealed disc narrowing (which he described as “normal wear and tear”) and
- He placed no work restrictions on Carpenter.
The Golf Cart Incident
After Carpenter sued Maniglia, Carpenter initially denied that he has been involved in any subsequent accidents.
Later investigation (by the defendant I presume) revealed, however, that Carpenter was involved in an unrelated accident and physical altercation less than a month after the car accident involving Maniglia.
In October 2009, Carpenter was playing in a golf tournament.
He fell from golf cart onto the street
In the course of the tournament, Carpenter drove a golf cart onto a public road, ran a red light, and collided with a car. At impact, Carpenter fell from the golf cart and onto the street.
Carpenter got into a physical altercation with the police at the scene, which included fighting, kicking, and wrestling on the ground.
There was evidence that:
- Carpenter was intoxicated;
- He did not have permission to use the golf cart;
- He yelled profanity at the police and kicked both feet against the rear passenger window of the police car; and
- He was arrested on the scene for battery on a law enforcement officer.
Tip: Always tell the truth. Think long and hard about any subsequent incidents that you’ve had. It is the easier, softer way. You should expect that an insurance company will spend the $24.00 that it costs to run an Florida criminal records history information search on you.
$24.00 is peanuts to them when they face big financial exposure, like the $182,429.39 verdict in this case.
Defense Had Evidence that Injured Man Failed to Disclose Subsequent Incident
Maniglia had additional evidence that would have shown that Carpenter failed to disclose the golf cart incident and altercation to Dr. Napoli when he returned to Dr. Napoli less than two weeks later.
Tip: Tell your doctor about all subsequent incidents that you’ve had since the accident.
Surgeon Didn’t Know About Subsequent Incident
Maniglia also proffered evidence that the magnetic resonance images (MRIs) of Carpenter, relied upon by Carpenter’s surgeon when he recommended surgery, were not taken until after the golf cart incident.
Case May be Tougher if 2nd Impact is Harder
My thoughts: I assume that Magnolia tried to get this evidence in to show that the golf car incident, and not the car wreck, was the cause of any abnormalities on the MRI. I assume that Magnolia will argue that the golf cart collision and falling off it was a harder impact than the car crash.
Trial Court Only Allows Jury to Hear that Claimant “Played Bumper Cars” with Golf Cart
At trial, however, the court allowed the jury to hear that Carpenter played in the golf tournament less than a month after the accident with Maniglia, and that Carpenter had played “bumper cars” with the golf cart at the first tee.
The court also allowed limited evidence that Carpenter was intoxicated at the golf tournament, which Carpenter had relied on to explain his ability to play golf following his alleged injuries.
Jury Awards Man Over $182,000
The jury returned a verdict awarding Carpenter $182,429.39.
The appeals court said that Carpenter’s failure to mention the recent golf cart incident to his chiropractor may have affected the jury’s evaluation of Carpenter’s credibility.
Tip: The injured party’s credibility is huge in a personal injury case. This is especially true if x-rays taken immediately after your accident don’t show an acute injury.
Subsequent Fall and Struggle with Police May be Considered by Jury
The appeals court also said that the particulars of his fall and struggle with police would have been an adequate basis for jury instructions on intervening causes and subsequent injuries.
The appeals court ordered a new trial. This decision is a blow to Carpenter’s case because now some of this “bad” facts will come in and can lower the next verdict.
Normally, the jury will only hear about your past convictions for crimes involving dishonesty or felonies. However, if you were involved in a subsequent incident with the police that may have caused an injury, the jury may get to hear about it.
I believe that this car accident happened in Monroe or Miami-Dade County since the lawsuit was filed in Monroe or Dade.
The court issued its ruling on November 4, 2015. The case is Maniglia v. Carpenter, Fla: Dist. Court of Appeals, 3rd Dist. 2015. It’s not my case, though I have settled several hundred Florida car accident cases.
A Boca Raton, Florida lawyer represented Carpenter.
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