Maryland Court of Appeals Rules Medical Records Were Properly Disclosed to Jury in Car Accident Case

When pursuing a lawsuit for personal injury damages arising out of a Maryland car accident, the plaintiff must prove the amount of loss caused by the defendant’s negligence. The defense can present its own evidence and witnesses to rebut the plaintiff’s proof. In a February 2, 2017 decision by the Court of Appeals of Maryland, the primary issue was whether the trial court erred by allowing the jury to view medical records used by an expert witness in giving his opinion.

The plaintiff in the case was a passenger in a vehicle that was rear-ended by the defendant. Over the next three years, the plaintiff was treated for a variety of health issues, including her shoulder. She filed suit against the defendant, alleging that the defendant’s negligent driving caused her injuries. While a rear-end accident is almost always caused by negligent driving, the main focus at trial was whether all of the plaintiff’s alleged injuries were caused by the accident.

During the trial, the defendant presented his expert witness, an orthopedic surgeon who had examined the plaintiff pursuant to the litigation. The expert testified that, based on his examination of the plaintiff and a review of her medical records, he believed many of the plaintiff’s injuries were not caused by the accident but instead were results of preexisting or unrelated conditions. Although the plaintiff had not introduced some of her prior medical records into evidence, the defendant moved to enter them into evidence. The trial court ruled that since the expert had relied on them in forming his opinion, the records could be admitted into evidence and shared with the jury.

Despite the jury verdict in favor of the plaintiff, the plaintiff appealed the approximately $10,000 amount of damages awarded to her. The plaintiff asserted that the admission of her medical records had a prejudicial effect on the jury.

In reviewing the case, the Court of Appeals noted that generally, evidence is admissible if it satisfies four elements provided in the Maryland Rules. Furthermore, such evidence may, in the trial court’s discretion, be disclosed to the jury to explain the factual basis for the expert’s opinion. The court concluded that the medical records were trustworthy, unprivileged, reasonably relied upon by the defendant’s expert, and necessary to illustrate his testimony. Meeting the four elements, the records were therefore properly admitted. The court also noted that there was no indication that the jury placed undue weight on the medical records, and had the plaintiff requested it, an instruction could have been provided to the jury to limit its use of the records. Accordingly, the verdict was affirmed.

If you have been injured in a car accident or otherwise harmed due to the careless actions of another person or business, you may seek compensation with the assistance of a Maryland injury attorney.  At Foran & Foran, P.A., our legal team represents victims and their family members in personal injury and medical malpractice claims.  Learn more during a free consultation with one of our experienced lawyers.  Call (301) 441-2022 or submit our online form and make your appointment today.

More Blog Posts:

Maryland Court Orders Insurance Company to Cover Loss for Wrongful Death Claims Arising Out of Car Accident, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published August 17, 2016

Maryland Court Finds Error in Admission of Past Traffic Offenses in Auto Accident Case, Maryland Personal Injury Blog, published October 10, 2016

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