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Rish v. Simao – Low-Impact Car Accidents in Orlando

When two vehicles collide at relatively low speeds, it can result in substantial injury.

Consider that the average vehicle weighs about 2,000 pounds. If it hits a stationary object at just 10 miles-per-hour, the impact force is going to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 3.7 tons.  And obviously, if we’re talking about a larger vehicles, such as a sport utility vehicles, it’s going to hit with even more force. Additionally, physics dictates that a person inside a vehicle travels faster than the vehicle itself when it is struck, so the occupants end up absorbing a disproportionate amount of force.

But none of this is going to stop a defendant from arguing that because the crash was low-impact, the plaintiff couldn’t possibly have suffered the injuries he or she is alleging. 

It’s going to be up to your Orlando car accident lawyer to prove that wrong. It may even require an expert witness or two.

The recent Nevada Supreme Court case of Rish v. Simao involves a low-impact crash claim. Here, trial court initially sided with plaintiff in prohibiting defendant from alleging that the low-impact crash negated plaintiff’s alleged injuries. However, the state supreme court reversed, finding the lower court had misinterpreted prior case law.

Here’s what happened:

Plaintiff and defendant were in stop-and-go traffic one afternoon when defendant rear-ended the plaintiff. There was very little damage to either vehicle, but an ambulance was called. However, when emergency medical services arrived, both defendant and plaintiff refused any medical attention.

However, following the collision, plaintiff alleged his head and neck were injured. He had begun to suffer constant pain and he had no choice but to seek medical treatment. He ultimately underwent several procedures to alleviate this pain, and a doctor ascertained the source was that accident.

It is of course not uncommon for whiplash – also known as a neck strain – to involve a delayed onset. It occurs when the intervertebral joints, discs, ligaments, muscles and/or nerves become damaged as a result of an abrupt back-and-forth motion of the head, usually in a car accident.

Plaintiff sued defendant for negligence. Prior to the trial, plaintiff filed a motion seeking to prohibit defense from presenting any evidence or testimony indicating that plaintiff’s injuries weren’t serious because the crash had been low-impact. This included blocking any mention of how fast the vehicles were going or pictures that showed damage to the vehicles after the crash.

The court agreed to this request based on a recent decision by the state supreme court. In that case, the supreme court disallowed the testimony of a biomechanical engineer in a low-impact crash case, finding that expert was not qualified to present evidence. Defendant in this case did not present evidence from a biolmechanical engineer, and the court concluded defense needed one in order to present a low-impact defense.

At trial, defense repeatedly ran afoul of this rule, ultimately prompting the judge to grant summary judgment in favor of plaintiff as a sanction. On appeal, the state supreme court reversed and remanded for a new trial.

The lower court had misinterpreted the state supreme court’s earlier decision. While the state high court did require the expert witness in that case to be qualified, it did not set any sort of precedent indicating an expert was required to prove such a case.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.

Additional Resources:

Rish v. SimaoMarch 17, 2016, Nevada Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:

Brown v. Davis – $3M Car Accident Verdict Affirmed, March 17, 2016, Orlando Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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