Car Accident Victim Awarded Damages for Emotional Distress in Personal Injury Case in Maryland

In a Maryland personal injury action, the plaintiff may seek damages for economic and non-economic losses.  Non-economic damages may include compensation for pain, suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life, among others.  Unlike economic damages, which are based on objective evidence of the monetary loss and expenses incurred from an injury, non-economic damages are determined subjectively.  In a July 1, 2020 decision, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals reviewed a jury verdict awarding the plaintiff $250,000 for non-economic damages in a car accident case.

The defendant in the case was involved in a motor vehicle accident while operating a truck owned by his employer.  A piece of the truck’s drive shaft flew off in the accident and bounced into the road, striking the plaintiff’s windshield and landing in her passenger seat.  The plaintiff was treated for a soft tissue sprain injuries.  She was also treated for anxiety, depression, and other emotional issues related to the accident.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury suit claiming emotional distress, mental anguish, and pre-impact fright.  At trial, the defendant sought to introduce evidence of the plaintiff’s personal history and prior assault conviction, arguing that those issues were the source of emotional distress for which she sought counseling.  The trial court allowed the defense to cross-examine the plaintiff and other witnesses about other causes of her emotional distress, but excluded evidence of the conviction itself.  Following deliberations, the jury awarded the plaintiff $250,000.00 for non-economic damages.

On appeal, the defendant asserted that the trial court erred by excluding evidence of the plaintiff’s assault conviction.  The defense argued that the conviction was relevant to challenge the plaintiff’s credibility that the accident was the sole source of her anxiety, depression, and emotional issues.

In a Maryland personal injury case, whether a particular item of evidence should be admitted or excluded is generally left within the sound discretion of the trial court.  While all relevant evidence is admissible, relevant evidence may be excluded if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, confusion of the issues, or misleading the jury.

The appeals court recognized that, although the assault conviction was not admissible for impeachment purposes, credibility was an important issue in the case.  The appeals court found that the trial court’s solution to exclude the conviction, but permit the defendant to discuss the plaintiff’s prior diagnosis of depression and other symptoms that led to the circumstances of her assault conviction, was appropriate.  In so doing, the defendant could attempt to discredit the plaintiff’s assertions that the accident was the sole source of her emotional issues, while avoiding undue prejudice to the plaintiff.  The appeals court went on to affirm the jury verdict.

If you have suffered medical expenses or emotional distress as a result of negligence, you may be able to seek compensation from the person responsible.  At Foran & Foran, we can represent victims of negligence and their families in a wide-range of personal injury cases.  Our lawyers can provide trustworthy legal advice regarding medical negligence, auto accidents, premises liability, and more.   Request a free consultation with a skilled attorney by calling (301) 441-2022 or contacting Foran & Foran online.

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