You pay for an auto insurance policy with the expectation that you will be covered in the unfortunate case of an accident, but anyone who’s had to deal with an insurer after a crash understands that it’s not always that easy. In Pack v. Geico, Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeals takes on a dispute about uninsured motorist coverage and considers whether evidence was sufficient to show that the insured person was actually injured in an accident.
Ms. Pack allegedly suffered a neck injury in a multi-car accident in Florida involving an uninsured driver. She later sought coverage from Geico, with whom she held an auto insurance policy that included uninsured motorist coverage. The insurer agreed that the crash was caused by the uninsured driver’s negligence, but maintained that this negligence did not cause Pack’s injuries.
Pack sued the company, and two doctors testified during the proceedings. The first, a neurosurgeon who examined Pack on an emergency room referral, said Pack suffered a neck sprain, fracture and disc herniation. On cross-examination, the trial court allowed Geico’s counsel to introduce as evidence a letter of protection between Pack and this doctor. A letter of protection is a document in which a person agrees to pay a medical provider for any expenses owed out of any future recovery in an ongoing lawsuit. In this case, Pack agreed to pay the neurosurgeon from any money received as part of her suit against Geico.
The second doctor, Geico’s medical expert, said Pack suffered only a sprain. It was also revealed during trial that Pack was twice hospitalized for neck pain prior to the accident. Pack did not disclose this information while being treated/examined by the two doctors who testified and claimed that the previous neck pain was minor and incidental to other, more serious, injuries.
Although a jury eventually found that the uninsured driver’s negligence caused the crash, it further determined that Pack’s injury was not permanent and awarded no damages for past or future medical expenses. The trial court denied Pack’s motion for new trial.
The Fourth District reversed the decision on appeal, however, finding that a new trial was warranted because the jury verdict was against the manifest weight of the evidence. Specifically, the court said there was no evidentiary basis for the jury finding that Pack suffered no injury as a result of the accident. “[B]oth the plaintiff and defense experts agreed that Pack suffered at least a neck sprain as a result of the accident,” the court explained. As a result, the award of no damages was legally inadequate, according to the court.
Despite this ruling, the court further held that the trial court properly admitted the letter of protection as evidence in the case. “Evidence pertaining to a letter of protection between a plaintiff and her treating physician, when that treating physician testifies as an expert on the plaintiff’s behalf, is relevant to show potential bias,” the court wrote. Florida law generally allows a party to present evidence exposing bias.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident in Florida, contact the South Florida personal injury lawyers at Anidjar & Levine. From offices in Ft. Lauderdale, we serve clients throughout the area, including in Hialeah, Coral Springs, Boca Raton and Pompano Beach. Call us toll-free at 800-747-3733 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
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