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.
The state supreme court acknowledged the importance of timing and adhering to scheduling orders during litigation. However, the court also emphasized the importance of considering other factors when sanctioning parties for tardiness, specifically the reason for the tardiness, the importance of the expert testimony to the case, the prejudice the opposing party would suffer if the witness testimony was allowed, and the availability of other remedies. In essence, the court found that a hard and fast rule on timing was unfair, and remanded the case back to the trial court for reconsideration.
While this case highlighted that there are certain options should a mistake be made in litigation, the mistake made early on in the case led to years of costly litigation and appeals that could have been avoided had the parties submitted all witnesses on time. As a result, the suit filed by the plaintiff in September 2014 was just this month remanded back to the trial court for reconsideration, prolonging the process for both parties. Because of the high stakes of personal injury litigation and the value of time to injured victims, Washington, D.C. injury victims are encouraged to consult a personal injury attorney when considering filing suit, to avoid small mistakes with big impacts.
Contact a Washington, D.C. Personal Injury Attorney
If you are considering filing a Washington, D.C. car accident claim for injuries you suffered as a result of someone else’s negligence, contact Lebowitz & Mzhen, Personal Injury Lawyers, first. Our attorneys are compassionate, dedicated, and knowledgeable about Washington, D.C. personal injury law, meaning you can trust us to handle every aspect of your case skillfully and without errors. Contact us today for a free, no-risk consultation at 800-654-1949, or fill out our online form.