Is An Expert Required To Testify on Causation in a Georgia Motor Vehicle Accident Trial?

A recent case arose when a man was injured in an auto accident. A driver rear-ended him while he was waiting to make a turn. The man left his car and came up to other driver, who apologized, but fled the scene.
The man sued the other driver as a John Doe, in order to recover damages from his uninsured motorist carrier. The insurer answered. The man received chiropractic care and received an MRI. The radiologist who conducted the MRI found that the man had a herniated disk that seemed to be many months old.
The insurer objected to the man using his examining radiologist as an expert at trial. The judge overruled the objection. At trial, a jury awarded the man $13,000. The insurer appealed.
The insurer appealed, arguing that the trial court should not have permitted the radiologist to testify without requiring the man to prove what caused his herniated disk. The insurer wanted the man to show causation between the findings and the accident.
The appellate court disagreed. It explained that causation in a simple negligence lawsuit in Georgia is not required to prove causation. Expert evidence is required when a medical question involving specialized knowledge is needed to show a causal connection between the defendant’s conduct and an injury. A simple back injury from a car accident did not raise that type of medical question on the issue of causation.
The appellate court explained that jurors could know that head and neck pain are the result of a car accident as a matter of common knowledge. The insurer had argued prior case law concerning a football injury believed to cause a later physical condition, as well as a long-term eye injury in a person exposed to pesticides, applied to this case. The appellate court reasoned that a car crash injury is clearly distinct from a long-term injury.
In a car crash injury, a Georgia jury can conclude that there is a causal connection between an accident and the start of symptoms. In this case, the issue was simply whether the injury was caused by the collision. The expert’s testimony had to do with the herniated disk and how long it lasted. It was up to the jury, however, to determine the causal connection.
The insurer also argued on appeal that there was no medical testimony establishing that the man had prior medical conditions aggravated by the accident. The trial court had instructed the jury on pre-existing conditions. The appellate court affirmed the trial court, explaining that it was sufficient for the plaintiff to present that he had experienced a car accident 15 months beforehand.
The radiologist testified to the jury that he wasn’t surprised that the man had experienced back and leg pain previously. He testified that he believed the man’s herniation had started to improve before the rear-ending at issue here. Therefore, the jury instruction on pre-existing condition was appropriate. The judgment was affirmed.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a motor vehicle, you may be wondering if you can file a lawsuit and recover damages for your loss. Contact experienced Atlanta personal injury attorney Terrence R. Bethune  at 404-875-7800 or via our online form for a consultation.