When trucking accident victims take their cases to court, they must show that they were injured, that the defendant’s wrongful actions caused the injuries, and that their injuries support their claim for financial damages. In my work as an attorney representing semi truck accident victims here in St. Louis, I know this can be just as vital as proving who caused the crash, because juries can perceive a lack of strong support for damages as greed. In Galloway v. Horne Concrete Construction, the plaintiff argued to the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that he needed a new trial because his trial court had wrongly excluded important evidence establishing that his damages claim was warranted. The jury ultimately found for Galloway, but awarded fewer damages than needed to treat his serious back injuries from a tractor-trailer crash. The Fourth Circuit ultimately agreed to the new trial on damages only.
Galloway was a self-employed long-haul trucker. On the day of his crash, he stopped for traffic near Baltimore. Another tractor-trailer stopped safely behind him, but a third truck, a dump truck driven by an employee of Horne, rear-ended the rear big rig at fairly high speeds, pushing it into Galloway’s rig and in turn pushing that truck into the one in front. (A fifth vehicle was also affected.) Galloway’s truck was totaled in the crash, and he began feeling back pain later that day. Doctors ultimately found a herniated disc in his back and performed surgery, with physical therapy and painkillers both before and after. Galloway eventually sued.
Before trial, Horne moved to exclude depositions from Galloway’s doctors, who were designated as fact witnesses. The magistrate spontaneously ruled that the back injuries required expert testimony under Maryland law. She excluded all testimony from the surgeon and agreed with Horne that without this testimony, Galloway couldn’t prove permanent injuries. The magistrate also barred Galloway from testifying about any of his medical treatment, because she felt the accident wasn’t adequately connected to his injuries. As a result, the jury did not consider future economic damages or medical bills, and awarded Galloway only $125,000.
Galloway’s appeal sought a new trial on damages only, arguing that the magistrate wrongly excluded evidence that prevented the jury from fully evaluating his damages. The Fourth Circuit ultimately agreed. Galloway’s injury clearly falls into an exception in Maryland law to the expert witness requirement: it developed right after the crash, causation was clearly apparent, and common knowledge or observation is adequate: no expert testimony is required to establish that being rear-ended by a tractor-trailer can cause back injuries. Thus, the Fourth said, the court erred as a matter of law by excluding the doctors’ testimony. Furthermore, the error was not harmless; the excluded bills alone would almost double Galloway’s damages. Thus, it vacated and remanded for a damages-only retrial.
If the court hadn’t ordered a new damages trial, it could have put Maryland accident victims on a different, and worse, footing than victims in other states. Here in Missouri and southern Illinois, where our big rig accident lawyers practice, plaintiffs don’t need to present expert testimony linking their injuries to their accidents. Testimony from their treating doctors as fact witnesses (or common sense, as the Fourth observed) is generally sufficient. That’s a good thing for plaintiffs, because expert witnesses add a substantial extra layer of expense and time to the case. The seriously injured people and grieving families that we represent at Carey, Danis & Lowe don’t need more barriers standing in between them and a fair financial recovery.
If you or someone in your family suffered a very serious injury in an accident with an 18-wheeler that was someone else’s fault, you should call the experienced attorneys at Carey, Danis & Lowe. You can contact us through our website or call 1-877-678-3400 today.
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