Early in the morning of August 25, 2006, Angela Brignac visited a McDonald’s in Baton Rouge. While she was stopped at the drive-thru’s menu board, her car was struck from the rear by a truck operated by Brian Mumphrey. The collision occurred because Mumphrey’s foot slipped off the brake pedal when he bent down to retrieve his wallet from the truck’s floor. Brignac did not call the police, but did exchange information with Mumphrey. She then ordered breakfast and went on her way. Later that evening, after Brignac went home and discussed the accident with her boyfriend, she called the police to report the accident and went to the hospital to be examined.
Approximately a year later, Brignac filed a lawsuit against Mumphrey and Farm Bureau, his insurance carrier. Brignac’s complaint alleged injuries to her right shoulder, back, neck, head, mouth, and jaw as a result of the collision. The trial court awarded Brignac $3,587 in damages for past medical expenses she incurred treating her jaw injury. It also awarded her general damages in the amount of $6,000, but denied her claims for past and future medical expenses for her shoulder injury. Brignac appealed this judgment, arguing that the trial court erred in failing to award medical expenses related to her shoulder injury. Brignac alleged that she had consistently complained of right shoulder pain from the date of the accident. She testified at trial that she reported both shoulder and jaw pain in the emergency room on the evening of the accident, but the shoulder issue was not documented in the ER records which were completed by both the ER doctor and the triage nurse. The first documented complaint of shoulder pain did not come until six weeks after the accident when Brignac was seen by Dr. Johnston who diagnosed her with a strained rotator cuff. Johnston prescribed pain medications, physical therapy, and exercise, and also administered cortisone injections in Brignac’s shoulder. He testified at trial that while he believed Brignac’s shoulder injury was related to the car wreck, his opinion was “based on history and what she tells me solely.” Brignac did not follow Dr. Johnson’s physical therapy recommendations and was eventually discharged as a patient from the therapy center for failing to show up for appointments. The First Circuit observed that “the trial court was not convinced that Ms. Brignac proved that her shoulder injury was related to the accident.” And, after reviewing the record, the court could not say that the trial court’s factual determination on causation was “manifestly erroneous or clearly wrong.” The court held,
“Noting other possible causes for Ms. Brignac’s shoulder injury, including the repeated lifting of her child, and considering the lapse of time between the accident and Ms. Brignac first seeking treatment for the shoulder problem, the [trial] court was not convinced that Ms. Brignac proved that her shoulder injury was related to the accident. We find no manifest error in this conclusion.”
The court’s conclusion reveals an important fact that all accident victims should keep in mind: in order to recover fully for an injury, it should be well documented by a medical professional. Ideally, the initial report of injury would be made immediately following the accident. Also, the courts generally take a dim view of plaintiffs who do not follow medical advice related to the treatment of an injury, so careful adherence to a doctor’s orders is essential to maximizing the financial recovery.
If you have been injured by someone’s negligence, contact the Berniard Law Firm today at 1-866-574-8005 and speak with a lawyer who can help you obtain the recovery you deserve.