Court Says Negligent Driver Responsible for Injuries Caused by Accident and Later Medical Treatment – Tucker v. Korpita

So you were injured in a car accident. Then the injury was made worse by medical procedures intended to treat it. In Tucker v. Korpita, the Fourth District Court of Appeal explains that the person whose negligence caused the accident is on the hook for both the original injury and any later aggravation of it.

In 2007, Andrew Korpita and Earleen Tucker were involved in a West Palm Beach car accident in which Korpita rear-ended Tucker. Korpita admitted that he was negligent and a trial was held on the issues of causation and damages.

At trial, two doctors testified about treating Tucker for neck and back injuries following the accident. One, Dr. Robert Simon, testified that he performed a minimally invasive percutaneous discectomy on Tucker, which reduced the effects of her impairment. Another, Dr. Jane Bistline, testified that she performed a lumbar discogram and epidural steroid injections on Tucker. Dr. Bistline found that Tucker suffered from three bulging discs, an impairment she believed to be permanent.

Korpita’s personal representative also called a number of doctors to testify, including Drs. Jordan Grabel and Robert Kagan, expert witnesses who testified that the discectomy performed on Korpita by Dr. Simon was not necessary because the procedure is designed to treat people who suffer from a herniated disc. In Dr. Grabel’s opinion, Korpita’s injury was the result of spondylolisthesis in the lower lumbar spine, a preexisting condition that was not made worse as a result of the accident. Dr. Kagan, meanwhile, concluded that Korpita suffers from a “pseudo herniation” and that the discectomy could have accelerated the effects of the impairment.

At a conference near the close of the trial, Tucker asked the court to instruct the jury that when a person is injured in a car accident as a result of another person’s negligence and the resulting injuries are later aggravated by negligent medical care, the negligent driver is considered the proximate cause of both the original injury and any aggravation. The trial court denied this request. The jury found that Tucker was not permanently injured as a result of the accident, but returned a $17,700 verdict in his favor for medical expenses and lost wages.

On appeal, the Fourth District ruled that the trial court should have issued the “intervening cause” instruction to the jury as Tucker requested. The court explained that in Stuart v. Hertz Corp., the Florida Supreme Court held that a person whose negligence causes an accident or injury is responsible for additional injuries caused by the medical negligence of a physician treating the plaintiff for the original injuries.

In this case, the jury instruction was necessary because Korpita’s medical experts testified that Tucker’s injury may have been aggravated by the discectomy procedure. Without the instruction, the jury could have been misled to believe that Korpita was not liable for the any aggravation of the original injury, the court concluded.

Rear end accidents are among the most common types of automobile collisions in the United States. The South Florida rear end accident attorneys at Anidjar & Levine work hard to zealously represent clients. Anidjar & Levine’s lawyers commonly represent individuals who were injured in rear end collisions, and we persevere to get the best possible results for our clients.

Related blog posts:

The Presumption of Negligence in a Multi-Car Rear End Accident – Shirey v. State Farm

Court: Paralyzed Car Accident Plaintiff Not Injured By Alleged Failure to Wear Seatbelt – Henry v. Hoelke

Causation In Florida Car Accident Litigation – Durse v. Henn