In Aguirre v. Soto, the court considered whether the evidence was legally and factually sufficient to support an award of $40,000 to the plaintiff for future medical expenses after a car accident. The case arose when the defendant, driving a pickup, ran a stop sign and crashed into a car driven by the plaintiff. The plaintiff didn’t get medical treatment at the scene but went to the doctor after suffering pain in his lower back, shoulders, and neck. The plaintiff sued the defendant, and the defendant agreed he was liable, so the issue at trial was damages.
At trial, pictures of damaged vehicles were introduced into evidence. The plaintiff testified he hadn’t had pain before the crash, but after the accident, his pain was eight out of 10. He went to a chiropractor, who treated him for about a month and then wrote a report saying no further treatment was necessary. However, the report showed he still had ongoing pain, and the plaintiff testified that his pain was at an eight when he stopped getting treated. He tried to get medical treatment, and an MRI showed he had a disc herniation.
A doctor prepared a report that summarized his status, stating that he might need more diagnostics and further rehabilitative care, and eventually referred him to an anesthesiologist, who recommended injections. The plaintiff tried not to undergo injections for fear of potential paralysis and was then referred to a neurosurgeon, who recommended a surgical procedure.
The plaintiff didn’t get any further medical treatment but testified his back didn’t heal. A doctor also testified at trial and, based on the tests he performed, noted that the plaintiff wasn’t exaggerating. He also said it wasn’t typical for someone of the plaintiff’s age to have a disc lesion when he was so young. The doctor testified that it was likely he would experience progression of the herniation because discs dehydrate as someone gets older.
He testified that future medical care or chiropractic care would be necessary and that the average cost for a check up would be $450. Since the plaintiff had a life expectancy of 40 more years, the reasonable cost of these checkups would be $36,000. A radiologist testified that the disc herniations were abnormal for the plaintiff’s age. He stated that the injury occurred within weeks or months and testified that since they showed up as white in the imaging, it was likely that they were the result of an accident. He explained that once a disc is injured, it doesn’t fix itself, and the plaintiff would probably experience future pain.
After hearing all the evidence, the award for future medical expenses was $40,000. The defendant appealed the future medical expenses award but not the rest of the award for past expenses. The court found the evidence sufficient to support a finding that the accident was the cause of the disc herniations. It explained that to recover future medical expenses, the plaintiff needed to show a reasonable probability that he would incur medical bills in the future and the reasonable expenses associated with that.
The appellate court reasoned that based on the extensive medical testimony, the jury could find to a reasonable probability that the plaintiff would require routine care and treatment in the future.
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