Tennessee Court Explains Proof Needed to Show Loss of Earnings in Car Accident Cases

If a person is involved in a car accident that is caused by another driver’s negligence, the person has a right to seek damages for any harm caused by the accident. While proving some damages, such as the cost to repair a car or obvious injuries such as broken bones and lacerations is a straightforward process, proving other damages requires an expert opinion.

The court of Appeals of Tennessee at Jackson recently analyzed the proof needed to establish loss of earning capacity in a Tennessee car accident case. If you were involved in a Tennessee car accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence, it is prudent to retain an experienced Tennessee car accident attorney to assist you in pursuing compensation.

Allegations Regarding the Accident and Plaintiff’s Treatment

Reportedly, the plaintiff was involved in a car accident with the defendant in January 2016. It was undisputed that the defendant caused the accident. Following the accident, the plaintiff was treated for sciatica, disc bulges, and other back issues. He eventually underwent back surgery, after which his surgeon advised the plaintiff that he should not lift objects weighing over thirty pounds or bend or twist. The doctor also stated that the plaintiff had reached his maximum improvement medically speaking.

It is alleged that the evidence of record indicated that the plaintiff had back issues prior to the accident. Additionally, at the plaintiff’s physician’s deposition, he disclaimed he was testifying that the accident caused the plaintiff to need surgery, and stated that the accident may have caused an increase in the plaintiff’s symptoms. As such, the defendant filed a motion to limit plaintiff’s physician’s testimony at trial. The court subsequently entered an order that the plaintiff’s physician could not claim that the accident created the need for the surgery.

It is reported that the defendant also filed a motion to prevent the plaintiff from introducing any expert testimony that the accident reduced the plaintiff’s earning capacity. The court limited the plaintiff’s expert’s testimony to arguing the accident exacerbated the plaintiff’s back issues. Following a trial, the jury issued a verdict in favor of the plaintiff in the amount of $250,000, which included $235,000 in loss of earning capacity. The defendant appealed.

Proof of Damages for Loss of Earning Capacity

The court stated that under Tennessee law, when a plaintiff seeks damages for loss of earning capacity, expert proof is often needed to link the injuries sustained and the impairment of the ability to earn a living. In cases where the physical impairment is subjective, or where the link between the impairment and earning capacity is not clear, expert medical testimony is essential. In such cases, the plaintiff must set forth competent medical testimony showing that he or she sustained injuries in the accident, and the injuries substantially limited his or her earning potential.

Further, the medical testimony presented must provide more than mere speculation that the injury caused an impairment in earning. Rather, the plaintiff must provide expert testimony showing that it is more likely than not the injury caused a loss of earnings. As such, the court found that the trial court erred in allowing the plaintiff to present expert testimony that speculated that the plaintiff’s injuries may have affected his ability to work. Thus, the court vacated the verdict and remanded the case for a new trial on damages.

Consult a Seasoned Tennessee Car Accident Attorney Regarding your Case

If you sustained injuries in a Tennessee car accident, you should consult a seasoned Tennessee car accident attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case and your right to pursue damages. Attorney Eric Beasley is a skilled Tennessee car accident attorney with the knowledge and experience needed to help you present a strong case in your favor. You can reach Mr. Beasley at 615-859-2223 or via the online form to schedule a consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Tennessee District Court Holds That Boilerplate Language in an Incident Report is Insufficient to Provide Defendant Notice to Retain Records, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, October 25, 2018.