The end of a Florida car accident trial is not necessarily the end of the story. Either side may file a number of post-trial motions, including requests for additur, remittitur or a new trial. An additur is a request to increase the damages awarded by the trial court. A remittitur is a request to reduce damages. A request for a new trial argues there was some error that cannot be corrected now after the fact without having a whole new trial.
Not all states allow additur. Florida Does. Here, F.S. 768.74 is the statute that allows the judge to either reduce or increase damages.
The recent car accident lawsuit of GEICO v. Isaacs, Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal weighed a request for remittitur by the liable auto insurer. According to court records, plaintiff suffered injuries due to a traffic accident. She filed a lawsuit against GEICO, which was her uninsured motorist carrier. (One in four drivers in Florida has no insurance. Even those who do have insurance may not have any bodily injury liability, as it’s only recommended, and not required by law. That means the best protection people have is a solid UM/UIM policy. Getting the insurer to pay up, however, can be a legal nightmare.)
At trial, plaintiff was awarded a total of $750,000 for medical expenses and pain and suffering. The court then issued a reduction of $60,000 for collateral source set-offs, and the judge then entered damages in the amount of $690,000, which included an awarded of $360,000 for future medical expenses.
After that verdict was rendered, the insurer filed a motion for remittitur, arguing the jury award for future medical expenses was excessive and contrasted with the manifest weight of the evidence. The trial court denied the motion, but the appellate court reversed, finding that ruling was improper.
The court noted that while most personal injury lawsuit verdicts involve some element of speculation and are subject to the discretion of jurors, the courts can review that discretion and reduce the award if it’s deemed to be “clearly arbitrary.” The court also cited previous appellate court decisions in noting that only medical expenses that are reasonably certain to be incurred in the future are recoverable. Testimony and/ or evidence that indicates some treatment might possibly be obtained in the future is not enough to merit an award of future medical expenses, the court noted.
During this trial, a treating physician for plaintiff estimated she would incur up to $2,000 in medical expenses annually, and also recommended shoulder surgery, which would cost between $40,000 and $50,000. This, the court said, was the only substantial, competent evidence provided as a basis for future medical expenses. There was no testimony regarding life expectancy, though, so it’s unclear how the jury reached its conclusion.
This lack of evidence on plaintiff’s life expectancy, in addition to the fact the damages awarded for future medical expenses “far exceeded what the evidence supported,” the case was remanded for a new trial solely on the issue of plaintiff’s life expectancy relating to the $2,000-a-year award for medical damages. The court affirmed the $50,000 awarded for shoulder surgery and the projected annual expense of $2,000 a year. The court also affirmed the award on all other counts. The only issue is to multiply the number of years plaintiff is expected to live by that $2,000 annual sum.
If you have been a victim of a Miami traffic accident, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.
GEICO v. Isaacs, Dec. 7, 2016, Florida’s 4th DCA
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