Pugliese v. Terek, 3D11-2209, 2013 WL 3455605 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. July 10, 2013)

This auto accident case dealt with the reasonableness of medical treatment and costs after a collision. Though the liability of the accident in this case was not an issue, the defendant in the lawsuit was seeking to have the total amount of damages lessened due to them being unreasonable.

At trial, a jury awarded the plaintiff, Charles Terek, damages for past medical treatment, as well as needed treatment in his future. The award also provided the plaintiff compensation for pain and suffering. There was not dispute at the trial as to liability of this 2004 auto accident. It was also not contested that a surgical procedure that the plaintiff underwent in 2006 was needed. The problem that the defendant in this lawsuit presented to the court was the amount for the surgery seemed excessive, and that a second surgery that took place in 2009 was necessary due to the accident that took place nearly five years earlier. Additionally, the costs that were incurred because of the second procedure were also in question by the defendant.

As far as the need for the second, 2009 surgery, the defendant presented evidence at trial that the plaintiff treated previously for injuries to his back and right leg from the 2004 auto accident. Medical documentation established that the plaintiff suffered a herniated disc because of the collision. In 2006, the plaintiff underwent a surgical procedure to repair the injury, and eventually was declared by to have reached maximum medical improvement by several doctors.

Almost two years later, in 2008, the plaintiff began to complain radiating pain down his left leg. Diagnostic testing revealed that there were new herniated discs as well as compression fractures to the plaintiff’s spine. As indicated by doctors for both the plaintiff and defendant, these injuries were not document on the MRI that was done previously. Per recommendations by the plaintiff’s physician, a second surgical procedure was performed in 2009, and the plaintiff claimed in this lawsuit that those injuries came from the accident that occurred in 2004. Both surgeries combined had expenses associated with them in excess of three hundred and forty thousand dollars.

The defendant claimed at trial that the new injuries, herniated discs and compression fractures, were not discovered on the diagnostic testing performed on the plaintiff in 2004. Therefore, it was the defenses’ contention that the additional injuries had to have been caused by something other than the auto accident. If the injuries that caused the need for the 2009 surgery had nothing to do with the 2004 auto accident, then, the defendant argued, he should not be held responsible for the bill, which exceeded two hundred thousand dollars. There was also evidence presented to the jury that the bill for the 2006 surgical procedure was unreasonable.

After both sides were done presenting their cases, a jury awarded the plaintiff a judgment for nearly one hundred and seventy thousand dollars. The importance of making medical professionals aware of any and all possible injuries after an auto accident is extremely crucial. A gap in treatment for an injury can significantly change the amount of money a jury awards a plaintiff. In this case, the initial MRI did not show the same injuries that were demonstrated in the second MRI taken four years later. If the plaintiff had indicated they felt pain in that region sooner, and the MRI and detection of the new injuries were done earlier, the final judgment could have been dramatically different. If you have been involved in a car accident, contact the Fort Lauderdale accident lawyers of Madalon Law for a free consultation.