Filing a personal injury case in Washington, D.C. is a complicated process, governed by strict and numerous rules. Even the most meritorious claim can be defeated solely due to a failure to abide by a particular rule, such as filing after the statute of limitations has expired or improperly pleading a case. While some plaintiffs may be able to successfully navigate these rules themselves, the likelihood of a mistake is much higher when a suit is filed without the assistance of an attorney.
Small mistakes in these cases can change the entire outcome of the suit. For example, a state supreme court recently considered a personal injury case resulting from a car accident, where the plaintiff, a world-ranked collegiate athlete, was injured, allegedly leading to hip surgery years later and negatively impacting his personal life and athletic career. The defendant acknowledged fault for the accident, although disputed the plaintiff’s expert witness’s testimony as to the extent of the harm and the amount of damage caused.
On the last day that the parties were allowed to submit expert witnesses, the plaintiff submitted a new expert who would testify as to the plaintiff’s future lost wages and earnings as a result of the accident. The defendant, in response, was a week late in identifying a rebuttal witness, having missed the deadline supplied by the court. The trial court thus excluded the rebuttal witness’s testimony. At trial, the plaintiff’s expert provided extensive and unrebutted testimony to support the claim for future lost wages and earnings, and the jury ultimately awarded $2 million to the plaintiff. The defendant appealed to the court of appeals, who affirmed the decision to exclude the evidence, and the case was finally brought to the state supreme court.