In Ingels v. Earnest, a plaintiff appealed a judgment that awarded her nothing in a personal injury lawsuit. The case arose when the plaintiff stopped on the freeway because of road construction. She was rear-ended by the defendant. However, neither of the drivers felt they needed help from the police or doctors, so they drove away from the accident and continued with their day.
A few weeks later, the plaintiff’s shoulder hurt, so she contacted a doctor. The doctor diagnosed her with a torn rotator cuff a few weeks after that. He recommended she undergo surgery, and she agreed. Her shoulder continued to hurt, and the doctor believed she would need more surgeries in the future. The plaintiff believed the injury was caused by the auto accident. She sued the defendant for negligence. At trial, she asked for damages based on disfigurement, medical care, physical impairment, and pain and mental anguish. The defendant argued damages weren’t appropriate unless the jury found that the injury was caused by the accident. The jury did not award her damages, and the court entered judgment accordingly.
The plaintiff asked for a new trial, but the court did not grant the motion. She appealed, arguing that the evidence was not enough to support the finding that there were no damages for her pain, impairment, disfigurement, and medical treatment. She also claimed that in response to the accident, her shoulder was actually hurt by restraining her dog during the accident.
The appellate court explained that a plaintiff trying to establish negligence must show proximate cause, among other elements. Proximate case is made up of cause in fact and foreseeability. A cause in fact is an act or omission that is a substantial factor in creating an injury that wouldn’t have occurred without the act or omission. Foreseeability exists if a negligent person should have anticipated the danger created by his actions and omissions.
In this case, the plaintiff only suffered an injury to her shoulder. She’d suffered this injury because she’d made a sudden stop and then, feeling the impact of the defendant’s car, reached over and stopped her dog from slamming against the dashboard. She hadn’t testified as to the size of her dog or the effect of restraining a dog of that size on her arm. She also didn’t think she needed medical care at the scene, and she only felt pain a few days later. She only contacted the doctor two weeks after the accident and didn’t go see him until six weeks after the rear-ending. The court also noted that she hadn’t presented evidence about damage to her car, and she hadn’t called the police to come to the scene.
Her ex-husband had testified about seeing her experience pain in her shoulder, but the testimony didn’t make it clear how long after the collision he saw her. Moreover, her doctor and she agreed that it was the act of reaching out to stop her dog from hitting the dashboard that caused her rotator cuff to tear.
The appellate court explained that the jury might not have believed her testimony that she reached out after the impact and was still able to put her arm in front of her dog before it hit the dashboard. Her proof of causation wasn’t strong enough to overcome what the jury found. The judgment was affirmed.
If you are hurt in a car accident, the experienced San Antonio attorneys at Carabin & Shaw may be able to represent you and develop a sound strategy for handling your case. Call our office for more information at 1-800-862-1260.