I have had to good fortune of trying car accident cases in different states for both Plaintiffs (injured people) and Defendants (as an insurance company defense attorney). Based on years of treating patients who have been injured in car crashes, I know that people can be injured in car accident with little to no property damage. The biomechanics and a number of studies support this proposition; however in practice, juries generally hate car accident cases with little to no property damage. Insurance companies know this, Judges know this and Lawyers know this. An insurance company has little risk in a small property damage case and insurance companies are in the allocation of risk business.
In my view there are a number of reasons for “NO CRASH – NO CASH” mentality. It is partly due to TV shows where you see the plaintiff in a neck brace in the courtroom and when s/he leaves the courtroom the brace is off. Maybe you saw the Seinfeld episode with this typical scenario. It is also partly due to the fact that a number of people on any given jury have been involved or their family members have been involved in car crashes with little or no injury. And finally, it is partially due to the insurance company lobby and advertising over the last 20 years.
Well the Indiana Court of Appeals recently ruled on a “NO CRASH – NO CASH” case in Flores v. Gutierrez. This case arose out of a Lake County car accident – with little to no property damage. The facts of Flores teach us something:
- The defendant admitted fault for the accident but contested the nature and extent of Flores' injuries.
- The defendant didn't even attend the trial.
- Even though the defendant was responsible for the accident – the jury awarded a BIG FAT ZERO.
So, one of the big issues on appeal was the admission of photos of Flores' vehicle into evidence. Apparently, the photos showed no real damage to the car. Flores' attorneys took the position that the photos without expert testimony of somebody saying that Flores could not get hurt in this type of accident should not have been given to the jury. The appellate court said that the trial judge did not commit error when s/he concluded that the photos of the damage, or lack thereof, would have a tendency to prove or disprove facts relating to Flores' injury.
A number of factors have to be looked at before a Northwest Indiana car accident is taken to trial, and the damage to the injured person's vehicle is certainly a major factor. That is why it is important to document the damage to all vehicles involved in an accident and the accident scene itself. Indiana car accident law can be complex, if you have any questions about a car accident case call our Michigan City personal injury lawyers at (219) 874-4878.