Failure to Submit Evidence of Medical Expenses Was Not Fatal to Massachusetts Woman’s Pain and Suffering Claim

In a Cape Cod car accident case, the plaintiff may seek reimbursement of medical expenses and lost wages necessitated by the motor vehicle collision. He or she may also seek money damages for pain and suffering in most cases.

However, if the plaintiff’s medical expenses are $2000 or less, he or she is not entitled to compensation for pain and suffering unless certain exceptions (such as permanent disfigurement or loss of sight) apply.

Facts of the Case

In a recent unreported court decision issued by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Appeals Court, the plaintiff was allegedly injured while riding in a wheelchair inside a vehicle owned by one defendant and driven by the other. According to the plaintiff, the driver stopped abruptly, causing her to fall part of the way out of her wheelchair. At trial, the plaintiff introduced certified copies of her medical records, but she did not submit any evidence of her medical costs.

The defendants granted a directed verdict to the defendants on the ground that the plaintiff had failed to meet the evidentiary threshold requirement of Massachusetts General Laws ch. 231, § 6D (which the defendants argued required a showing of more than $2000 in medical expenses in order to award pain and suffering damages).

Decision of the Court

The appeals court began its analysis by observing that the statute in question conditions a motor vehicle accident plaintiff’s recovery for pain and suffering damages on a finding that he or she sustained more than $2000 in medical expenses (unless certain exceptions apply). Thus, the core question at trial was whether the plaintiff adduced sufficient evidence that she incurred more than $2000 for medical expenses that were reasonably and necessarily caused by the defendants’ negligence.

The appellate court went on to hold in the plaintiff’s favor on the issue, finding that, while the plaintiff’s failure to offer itemized medical bills into evidence was not the “best practice,” this omission was not inherently fatal to her claim. This was because, under Massachusetts law, the trier of fact could have reasonably inferred, based on the certified medical records presented by the plaintiff, that the plaintiff had, in fact, incurred more than $2000 in medical costs due to the accident at issue.

In so holding, the court noted that the plaintiff’s evidence showed that she had went to the emergency room after the accident, that she had undergone numerous imaging tests (including an MRI), and that she had been given multiple prescription medications. Thus, the court of appeals opined that the jury could have concluded that the plaintiff’s medical costs related to the accident were in excess of the statutory threshold amount. The court thus reversed the lower tribunal’s decision and remanded the case for a new trial.

Schedule a Consultation with an Experienced Massachusetts Car Accident Attorney

The “value” of a car accident case can vary substantially depending not only on the circumstances of the crash and the plaintiff’s particular injuries but also on the manner in which the case is presented to the jury (or, for cases that settle prior to trial, to the defendant’s insurance company). At the Law Offices of John C. Manoog, III, our experienced Cape Cod car injury attorneys work very hard to investigate a client’s accident, fully document his or her injuries and associated expenses, and present these findings to the appropriate entity in order to maximize the amount of compensation that the client ultimately receives. To get started on your case, call us now at 888-262-6664.

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