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Louisiana Court Finds Automobile Insurance Company Not Liable for Damages to Plaintiff Unable to Prove Causation in Vehicle Accident

The Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal analyzed whether the plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit was entitled to damages from an automobile insurance company.  The court focused on the element of causation and addressed the importance of credibility relating to witness testimony.

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In December 2009, Steven Jones was involved in a vehicle accident with George Brevaldo in New Orleans. Mr. Brevaldo’s recreational vehicle sideswiped Mr. Jones’ SUV.  Mr. Jones was treated at the emergency room for injuries to his neck, shoulder, and upper back.

Following this accident, Mr. Jones was involved in two other motor vehicle accidents.  In February 2010, Mr. Jones received medical treatment and settled his claims arising from an accident. In March 2011, Mr. Jones also received medical treatment after a third car accident.

Mr. Jones settled his property damage claim with Mr. Brevaldo’s automobile insurance company, American Reliable Insurance Company, for approximately $700.  He then sued Mr. Brevaldo and American Insurance Company for personal injuries and damages.  After a bench trial, the court held in favor of American Insurance and Mr. Brevaldo.  Mr. Jones appealed.

On appeal, Mr. Jones alleged that the district court abused its discretion in failing to award him damages, although the facts of the accident were undisputed. He sought $50,000 for pain, suffering, and mental anguish.

The trial court found that Mr. Jones was “unworthy of belief.” Appellate courts must give great deference to the findings of the trier of fact, particularly concerning credibility matters. The lower court found that the accident was so minor that it was difficult to believe it caused the damages alleged by Mr. Jones.  The lower court also stated that Mr. Jones’ testimony suffered from inconsistencies. For example, he told the doctor evaluating him for Social Security that he had neck problems.  But Mr. Jones did not mention neck problems to the health care providers for the accident with Mr. Brevaldo.

Not only did Mr. Jones contradict his prior testimony, but also the medical records demonstrated that he in fact had stated he suffered from neck problems throughout his life.  While he had stated he was unable to work as a roofer and driver after the accident, he then explained he lost his job because he did not have transportation and not because of his alleged injuries.

In light of the minor physical damage to Mr. Jones’ vehicle, the two subsequent accidents, and preexisting medical conditions, the appellate court stated the lower court had a reasonable basis to conclude that Mr. Jones presented unreliable testimony.  The lower court could reasonably find that he did not sustain physical injuries as a result of the accident.  The rule is that when two potential views of the evidence exist, the fact-finder’s choice cannot be deemed manifestly erroneous.

The court stated that a person injured by the fault of another is entitled to indemnification for his damages. A plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit must prove causation.  A presumption of causation helps the plaintiff in meeting this burden if before the accident, they were in good health, but beginning with the accident, the disabling symptoms appeared and continued to manifest themselves, assuming that the medical evidence shows a reasonable probability of a causal connection between the accident and the disabling condition.

Here, Mr. Jones was unable to establish the causal connection, due to his conflicting testimony, his medical records, and other trial evidence.  The appellate court held the determination was reasonable, based on the record. They affirmed the judgment of the district court.

In this personal injury lawsuit, the plaintiff sought to recover damages from the defendant’s automobile insurance company.  The insurance attorneys at Lavis Law are skilled at representing individuals in seeking compensation from insurers, and we have successfully advocated on behalf of clients throughout Louisiana.  Contact our office by calling 866.558.9151.

More Blog Posts:

Louisiana Court Finds Insurer Not Liable for Damages to Fourth Vehicle Driver as Prior Vehicles Avoided Collision, Louisiana Insurance Lawyer Blog, November 10, 2015

Louisiana Appeals Court Holds Plaintiff Has Burden of Proving His Entitlement to Recovery Under Uninsured Motorist Coverage, Louisiana Insurance Lawyer Blog, August 25, 2015

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