Lack of Visible Property Damage Can Be a Problem in Personal Injury Trials

I just finished a two-day jury trial in the Circuit Court for Cecil County. Based solely on the preceding sentence, any experienced Maryland personal injury lawyers reading this probably have an idea where this post is going.

I was trying one of the most difficult types of cases to present to a jury. A rear-end collision with no visible damage to the vehicles involved, allegations of a fairly serious injury, and venue in a rural, conservative county with a (well-deserved) reputation for not being plaintiff-friendly.

The defendant driver claimed that she merely took her foot off her brake pedal a little too early while stopped at a traffic signal and drifted into the back of my client’s car. The photos of the vehicle damage supported this version of events- there was no damage visible.

My client felt pain in her neck, and was transported by ambulance to the local emergency department, where she was diagnosed with a cervical strain and told to follow up with her primary care doctor in 3-5 days if it did not improve. It didn’t, so she did. Ultimately, she was diagnosed with a herniated disc at C5-6. This was confirmed by MRI, and the client’s shoulder radiculopathy was confirmed by EMG.

At trial, the client’s primary care doctor testified that he had been her doctor for many years and that she had never had a neck problem before this accident. Her neurologist also testified that the herniated disc was caused by the accident. He testified that the vehicle damage photos did not change that opinion.

There was no defense medical expert. The jury awarded $2,500.00 of the claimed medical bills and $500.00 for non-economic damages. I can’t say this was an unexpected result on these facts in that jurisdiction. I tend to be more aggressive than most in trying low property damage cases. This is because I believe people get injured in low-impact collisions and they deserve to have a lawyer willing to fight to get a jury to do the right thing; and because I look at these kinds of cases as one of the biggest challenges for plaintiff’s accident lawyers.

Here, an ambulance crew transported my client to a hospital, the hospital diagnosed a neck problem, and two local physicians testified as to the medical causation issue. I am not sure what more evidence could have been produced linking the injury to the accident. I wonder whether any amount of evidence would have been enough to overcome the “nobody could have gotten hurt in this accident” defense.

This one is now stored in the “Get ‘Em Next Time File.” I am still mad, though. When I lose and don’t care, I will quit doing trial work.