Mathis v. Huff & Puff Trucking: Proving Extent and Causation of Injuries

Large trucks pose a significant threat to drivers in Alabama and throughout the country. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports nearly 4,000 people were killed in 95,000 injured in accidents involving large trucks in 2013.
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The majority of those people who suffered injury or death were occupants of other vehicles.

In the recent case of Mathis v. Huff & Puff Trucking, before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, plaintiff was struck by a semi-tractor trailer while in a tow truck.

The good news for him was that being in a larger vehicle almost certainly protected him from more serious injury, which he undoubtedly would have sustained had he been in a passenger car.

Unfortunately, it also meant that proving his case for injuries following the truck accident was more difficult, particularly considering he had a prior medical condition.

In this case, the question of fault was not an issue. The semi truck driver was deemed 100 percent at fault even prior to trial. He had been traveling too fast for the icy conditions and was following plaintiff’s tow truck too closely.

What was at issue was the extent of plaintiff’s injuries related to the crash. Plaintiff was the one to contact emergency medical assistance from the scene of the crash, and at the time, he was coherent, ambulatory and functional, according to the record.

The emergency room doctor found no indication of head trauma, but did find plaintiff had sprained his neck and back.

Previously, plaintiff had suffered back issues. He had endured two spinal surgeries years earlier.

Several days after the wreck, plaintiff sought medical assistance from his primary care physician, who ordered MRIs and noted multiple areas of sprain to his spine as a result of the crash. The pre-existing condition had been aggravated and he was referred to a spine and neurosurgery physician.

He was diagnosed with sprains and material aggravation of a preexisting asymptomatic spine condition and was prescribed conservative treatments of massage and physical therapy, with which he seemed to improve.

Plaintiff was initially on light duty for work but later released without restrictions and worked in a physically taxing job for a year prior to trial. In his negligence action, he sought damages for traumatic brain injury as well as injuries to his spine and reduced future earning capacity.

Jurors ultimately awarded him $145,000, but this was far less than he anticipated.

He later appealed on several grounds, including the expert witness testimony of defense witness, an alleged conflict of interest by judge’s law clerk and the jury’s allegedly erroneous findings related to his injury.

Finding no reversible error, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed.

It is not uncommon in accident cases for defense to challenge extent of plaintiff’s personal injuries. Success in the courtroom often depends on ability of plaintiff’s counsel to conduct a thorough investigation of the accident, as well as close examination an skilled presentation of medical records and testimony from qualified expert witnesses.

Call Allred & Allred P.C. at 1-866-942-9315 to speak with a Montgomery personal injury lawyer.

Additional Resources:
Mathis v. Huff & Puff Trucking, June 2, 2015, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

More Blog Entries:
Report: Children Injured, Dying Due to Improper Car Seat Use, June 3, 2015, Alabama Truck Accident Attorney Blog