Massachusetts Decision Outlines What Is Needed To Prove Damages In A Personal Injury Suit

Civil litigation revolves around questions of whether the named party or parties were negligent and whether the defendant or defendants caused the injury. There is less of a general discussion around another element that must be proven: damages. It is easy to assume that if someone was injured, he or she is probably paying for doctors’ bills and prescriptions that were previously absent from his or her daily life. However, if the injured party had pre-existing medical conditions with overlapping symptoms, the proof becomes much more intricate than providing a stack of receipts to the court. Medical experts may be necessary to testify as to what physical and psychological conditions, and therefore treatment of those conditions, can be attributed to the accident. Testimony may also be necessary to not only show what happened in the past but advise what lifelong impairments will result from the injury.

In a recently published decision, Fyffe v. Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, the Massachusetts Court of Appeals addressed several issues stemming from a damages-only trial. The woman was injured when she rode a public transit trolley that crashed into another trolley. Both sides agreed that the operator was negligent, but they disagreed as to what the defendants’ obligation was for reasonable and fair compensation for the injuries she suffered. The woman was employed as a gate agent for an airline and suffered injuries to her spine from the accident. The injuries prevented her from performing one of her main duties of lifting heavy suitcases. She was able to earn up to $40,000 per year plus benefits and was eligible for a 4% raise every three years, but she found herself working as a waitress for around $15,000 a year due to her injuries.

The defendants disagreed with the degree of responsibility the injured woman assigned to them for her injuries. They argued against the alleged severity of the injuries, and whether or not the anxiety, depression, and chronic headaches were the result of the accident or a pre-existing condition. The defendants also disagreed as to whether or not the accident prevented her from working, or prevented her from working in a different, but full, capacity. During the trial, testimony was provided by a neurosurgeon who examined her 20 months after the collision. The doctor did not review her medical records prior to the crash but did emphasize that one of the herniated cervical discs was pushing against the spinal cord and could cause the woman to become quadriplegic.

The defense provided their own neurologist, who reviewed the injured woman’s medical records but did not perform an examination. The doctor agreed with the other neurosurgeon that the discs were herniated but disagreed with the extent of damage. The jury, at trial, awarded the woman over one million dollars for damages, including past medical expenses, future medical expenses, and lost capacity to work. The Court of Appeals, addressing other issues related to the presentation of the case, vacated the judgment and remanded the case for a new trial.

When you or a loved one suffers from career-altering injuries, it is important to have knowledgable, assertive counsel at your side. The Massachusetts personal injury attorneys at the Law Office of James K. Meehan have the experience you need to determine what is the best course of action for your case. For a free, confidential consultation, contact our office at 508.822.6600.

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Federal District Court of Massachusetts Case Reviews Commissioner’s Ruling Regarding Supplemental Security Income Benefits, Massachusetts Injury Lawyer Blog, September 28, 2014
United States District Court of Massachusetts Allows Widow of Deceased Athlete to Pursue Part of Claim Against Triathlon Organization, Massachusetts Injury Lawyer Blog, September 21, 2014