In the aftermath of a car accident, the quest for justice often extends beyond determining fault, delving into the intricate realm of calculating damages. Even when the liability is undisputed, securing compensation can be laden with legal complexities. The following case unveils the story of Shelley Cooley, a collision victim navigating the labyrinth of litigation to ascertain the rightful compensation for her injuries. The journey sheds light on the indispensable role of compelling evidence, from medical testimony to personal accounts, in establishing the magnitude of damages in the aftermath of an accident.
Shelley Cooley was involved in a car accident where her car was hit from behind by a car driven by Timothy Adgate, who worked for the City of Shreveport. Cooley had to obtain medical treatment after the accident for pain in her knee, back, and neck. Cooley filed a lawsuit against Adgate and the City of Shreveport. The parties agreed the City of Shreveport was liable because Adgate was completely responsible for the accident while working as a police officer. The only issue at trial was the amount of damages owed to Cooley.
Cooley was the only witness to testify at trial. Medical evidence was presented through the deposition transcripts of various doctors. The trial court ruled the accident had exacerbated Cooley’s pre-existing medical issues but declined to award any damages for future medical expenses because the evidence about future medical expenses was speculative. The trial court awarded Cooley $50,000 in general damages and $79,508.66 for past medical expenses. Cooley filed an appeal.
On appeal, Cooley argued she should have been awarded more than $50,000 in general damages because her injuries from the car accident required medical treatment for over four years. Someone who is injured because of another is entitled to full compensation for the resulting damages. See La. C.C. art. 2315. General damages are not required to be exactly established and include things like inconvenience, loss of physical enjoyment, and mental and physical pain. See Bellard v. American Cent. Ins. Co.
The appellate court reviewed the evidence presented at trial, including Cooley’s testimony about the pain and suffering that resulted from the injuries caused by the car accident. Based on the evidence, the appellate court found the trial court’s award of $50,000 in general damages was not an abuse of discretion.
Cooley also argued the trial court erred in not awarding her any damages for future medical expenses. She claimed the medical evidence and expert testimony supported an award of damages for future medical expenses. To recover for future medical expenses, the plaintiff must establish that such expenses are probable with supporting medical testimony. See Menard v. Lafayette Ins. Co. Because a tortfeasor (here, Adgate) takes the victim (here, Cooley) as they come, the fact Cooley had pre-existing medical issues at the time of the car accident did not preclude her from recovering for future medical expenses.
In reviewing the medical evidence presented, the appellate court found Cooley had provided sufficient evidence to establish she would likely have future medical expenses from her injuries in the car accident and the probable amount of those expenses. Therefore, the appellate court amended the judgment to award Cooley $269,129 for future medical expenses.
As seen here, sufficient evidence is essential to establish the damages to which you are entitled A good attorney can advise you on what evidence you should present to support your claim for damages.
Additional Sources: Shelley Cooley v. Timothy Adgate and City of Shreveport
Article Written By Berniard Law Firm
Additional Berniard Law Firm Article on Evidence Required for Future Medical Expense Damages: Make No Mistake, Medical Testimony Is Required For Juries To Award Damages For Future Medical Expenses