How to Prove a Causal Link Between a Car Accident and Injuries in Louisiana

accident_car_accident_crash-1024x768If an individual suffers from chronic pain or a preexisting injury, it may be challenging to prove additional injury due to a car accident. Proving these additional injuries, however, is crucial for collecting damages or compensation for medical bills following the accident. The following Lafayette Parish case shows how a plaintiff may prove a causal link between the car accident and their injuries. 

This case concerns a motor vehicle accident between Traci Herbert and Brian Meaux. The accident occurred when Herbert made a wide right turn into a parking spot, and Meaux, who was driving a company vehicle for Barry’s Air Conditioning, wrongly assumed she was turning left. Meaux then attempted to pass Herbert on the right when the two cars collided.

At the scene of the accident, Herbert reported to the responding officer that the accident caused her to hit her head. She later testified that she suffered from a headache and neck and back pain as a result of the accident. The day after the accident, Herbert visited her chiropractor, Dr. Tiffany Pratt, who testified that her various injuries were caused by the accident and further required a course of treatment lasting nearly four years, including a referral to a neurologist.

The 15th Judicial District Court for the Parish of Lafayette assigned 70% fault to Barry’s Air Conditioning, Meaux’s employer, and 30% to Herbert. The District Court, in making its ruling, found that Herbert, her chiropractor, and her neurologist failed to establish a causal relationship between her injuries and the accident. Herbert then appealed the case to the Louisiana Third Circuit Court of Appeal.

Herbert argued, in part, the District Court erred in finding that she did not prove the accident caused her injuries. She further contended that Barry’s Air Conditioning failed to provide countervailing evidence that her injuries were not caused by the motor vehicle accident. Barry’s Air Conditioning answered, stating the accident did not cause Herbert’s injuries, that her medical treatments following the accident were for injuries that predated the accident, and that neither her chiropractor nor her neurologist testified that her injuries were related to the accident. 

According to Louisiana law, the plaintiff bears the burden of proving the causal relationship between the accident and the alleged injuries. This burden can be met by establishing, via medical testimony, that it was more probable than not the accident caused the injuries. See Maranto v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. Additionally, testimony from a chiropractor treating the plaintiff is admissible to establish the required causation. See White v. Progressive Sec. Ins. Co.

Although the District Court found that Dr. Pratt’s testimony was insufficient to link Herbert’s injuries to the accident, the Court of Appeal concluded the court manifestly erred. First, the Court of Appeal noted that Dr. Pratt had previously treated Herbert and was familiar with her medical history, symptoms, and treatments. Additionally, Herbert’s last visit with Dr. Pratt was eight months before the accident, and the Court of Appeal found no evidence in the record that Herbert saw any other doctor between her last visit with Dr. Pratt before the accident and her visit the day following the accident. 

The Court of Appeal found Dr. Pratt’s testimony unambiguous, as she commented that Herbert’s condition was caused by the motor vehicle accident. The Court of Appeal also found Dr. Pratt’s opinion to be based on her medical experience, knowledge of Herbert’s medical history, and objective findings of the injury and that Barry’s Air Conditioning did not provide any evidence to contradict Dr. Pratt’s testimony and did not request an independent medical examination. Thus, the Court of Appeal held the District Court manifestly erred in ruling that Herbert did not demonstrate a causal relationship between the accident with Meaux and her injuries. Accordingly, the Court of Appeal reversed the District Court’s judgment and awarded $50,000.00 in damages to Herbert.   

Following a motor vehicle accident, hiring an attorney with extensive experience in gathering relevant evidence and finding the right expert witnesses is essential to establish the causal link between the accident and your subsequent injuries.  


Written by Berniard Law Firm Blog Writer: Samantha Calhoun

Additional Berniard Law Firm Articles on the Importance of Medical History in a Car Accident: Louisiana Car Accident Victim Fails To Establish Causation Through Housley Causation Presumption

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