The case Christ v. Schwartz, out of the Fourth Appellate District, had a plaintiff who was involved in a car crash with the defendant admitting negligence and liability but who was awarded no damages by the jury. The jury found the plaintiff to not be credible because she had exaggerated her injuries. The accident occurred when the defendant side swiped the plaintiff, both driving approximately 1o miles per hour. The plaintiff immediately got out of her car and began running around searching for witnesses. The plaintiff then turned down a ride home, drove herself away, and proceeded to engage in two months of physical therapy but did not seek additional medical treatment until she filed a lawsuit a year later. In trial, the plaintiff testified that she was in constant pain and could not lift anything over five pounds or brush her teeth unless she first did yoga. To rebut her claims, the defendant introduced a video showing the plaintiff lifting up her dog, holding a large handbag, and carrying a large garbage can, all without apparent pain.
The jury made the finding that the plaintiff was uninjured in the accident because there was no objective evidence of a medical injury. The evidence the plaintiff introduced was self supporting and subjective and found to be not credible. Despite the defendant admitting to liability, the plaintiff walked away with nothing.
Reminder to Litigants:
Other than the facts and the law being on your side, a party’s credibility is the most important aspect of a successful lawsuit. Credibility can destroy in an instant and almost impossible to regain. Telling the truth and not exaggerating is imperative. The law, the judge, and the jury do not award those who have been caught in a lie. Those injured as a result of another’s negligence should be awarded damages. But damages in a personal injury case are generally meant to compensate for the injuries, not punish the negligent party, unless of course there is a basis for punitive damages. Punitive damages, those meant to set an example to deter future behavior and to punish the defendant, are awarded when the defendant has engaged in malicious, oppressive, or fraudulent conduct. Personal injury damages generally include past and future medical costs, past and future lost wages or earning potential, and pain and suffering, all of which must be proven to a reasonable certainty.