A person is involved in a car accident, caused by the fault of another and injures their lumbar spine. Before the injured party has concluded their medical treatment they are involved in a second car accident where another injury occurs to their lumbar spine. The physician, who treats each injury, is unable to determine which accident caused what percentage of disability to the injured party’s spine.
The issue that comes up in this fact pattern is; how does a person get compensated for a permanent injury that was the result of one or more accidents? In other words, if the total disability to the lumbar spine is 20%, who is responsible for all and/or part of that percentage when the treating orthopedic doctor cannot attribute what the percentage of permanent disability was caused by which accident.
Connecticut has an apportionment statute, C.G.S. § 52-572(h), so the question is whether a jury can be called upon to apportion damages among multiple defendants in multiple accidents that have caused the same or similar injuries to the plaintiff.
The CT Appellate Court addressed this issue in the case of Card v. State. In Card, the plaintiff was injured in three separate accidents that occurred within seven months of each other. A lawsuit was filed as to each of the three defendants. The Plaintiff treated with the same doctor for each of
the three injuries.
At trial, the Plaintiff’s physician testified that each of the three accidents was a substantial factor in contributing to the Plaintiff’s injuries but it was impossible to determine to a reasonable degree of medical certainty how much of the total disability was attributable to each accident. The doctor ultimately testified that each of the three accidents contributed equally to the permanent disability suffered by the Plaintiff.
The verdict was appealed and the CT Appellate Court indicated that the trial court should not have allowed the doctor’s testimony into evidence because it was speculative and therefore inadmissible. However,
the Appellate Court also held that the Court should not have granted the Defendant’s motion to set aside the verdict obtained by the plaintiff in the trial court.
The Appellate Court went on to state, in analyzing our apportionment statute, 52-572(h), that in the rare case where damages cannot be
apportioned between two or more accidents, the plaintiff who can prove
causation should not be left without a remedy. One response to situations in which a jury is unable to make even a rough approximation of damages, is to apportion them equally among the various accidents.
The Card Court held that if the jury could not make even a
rough approximation, in each case, the jury must apportion the damages equally among each party whose negligent actions caused injury to the plaintiff, including settled or released persons as contemplated by the apportionment statute.
So if you receive injuries to the same or similar body
part(s), in multiple accidents, and your doctor cannot apportion the injury as to each accident, you can still receive compensation.