Florida Court Limits Medical Examiner Testimony in Rear End Car Accident Case – Cascanet v. Allen

Car accident cases often involve a battle of medical experts, including a doctor hired by the defense to independently examine the person allegedly injured in the accident. In Cascanet v. Allen, Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal explains that such an expert must limit his or her testimony to the opinions rendered in a written report following the examination.

Plaintiff Joshua Cascanet suffered back injuries when the car he was driving was rear ended while stopped at a red light. The vehicle that struck Cascanet’s car was driven by Defendant Keri Ann Allen and owned by her father, Defendant John Allen. As the court explains, Defendants’ vehicle “‘submarined’ under the rear of Cascanet’s car, lifting it, propelling it forward, and then dropping it to the ground.” Cascanet was treated at a local emergency room where it was determined that he’d suffered two herniated discs and a possible third.

At trial Cascanet testified that treatments such as shots and chiropractic work failed to relieve the pain caused by his injury and that the pain continues to persist and, in fact, has worsened over time. His treating physician further testified that Cascanet will likely have to undergo a series of very painful surgical procedures in the future. For the defense, an orthopedic surgeon examined Cascanet and prepared a written report stating that Cascanet’s injuries were likely the result of the accident and that surgical treatment may eventually be necessary.

Although Defendants’ attorney agreed that the surgeon’s testimony would not include any new opinions, the surgeon nevertheless went on to testify that “many studies” have shown that disc herniations can sometimes heal themselves and, as a result, Cascanet might never require surgery. He also indicated that other sources than the accident may have contributed to Cascanet’s ongoing pain.

After two hours of deliberation, the jury awarded Cascanet $23,764.57 to cover past medical bills and lost wages. It did not, however, award any future damages, finding that Cascanet did not sustain a permanent injury.

On appeal, the Fifth District found that the trial court erred in allowing the surgeon to testify regarding the possibility of self-healing as well as possible causes of the injuries that were not related to the car accident. The court cited Rule 1.360(b), Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides that “the party requesting the examination to be made shall deliver to the other party a copy of a detailed written report of the examiner setting out the examiner’s findings, including results of all tests made, diagnosis, and conclusions, with similar reports of all earlier examinations of the same condition.” According to the court, the rule is intended to allow an opposing party ample opportunity to prepare to prosecute or defend the case. As a result, the court ruled that it is a violation of the “spirit” of this rule to allow an examiner to testify in regards to matters outside of the written report.

The court remanded the case for a new trial.

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 persevere to get the best possible results for clients.

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