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Rish v. Simao – Low-Speed Car Accident Lawsuit

When two vehicles collide at a low speed, hopefully it’s nothing more than a little annoyance. You make sure everyone is Ok, exchange insurance information and that’s the end of it. caraccident2

Unfortunately, these seemingly minor fender-benders can result in lasting injuries – and it may not even be immediately apparent to the person injured. That’s because symptoms of whiplash, concussion and other types of musculoskeletal and brain injuries may not be immediately apparent. That’s why it’s always advisable to seek immediate medical attention after a crash, even if you genuinely and overall feel alright.

The mere fact of slow speed and low impact does not necessarily negate a claim of personal injury in a car accident, but it can sometimes make it tougher to prove. Your attorney will likely need to present expert witness testimony in order to overcome the erroneous assumption that because the crash didn’t involve great force, there is no potential for substantial injuries. 

Just as an example, consider that a 2,000-pound vehicle – the average size of a passenger car – traveling 10 mph would hit another object with nearly four tons of force. To suggest it would be impossible to do any damage is incorrect. Still, it’s a common defense in these cases, and your injury lawyer needs to be prepared to counter it.

In the recent case of Rish v. Simao, the Nevada Supreme Court reviewed a trial court decision to grant summary judgment to plaintiff as a sanction against defendant who repeatedly violated an order not to present any evidence as to the low speed/ low impact nature of the crash in question.

The state supreme court ultimately reversed because it found the lower court misapplied the standard it set in an earlier low-impact crash case. In the previous case, the state high court ruled that a defendant could not present evidence from a biomechanical engineer because that witness was not qualified to present that testimony.

However, the court in Rish wrongly concluded that meant a defendant was required to present the evidence of a qualified biomechanical engineer in order to present a low-impact defense. The higher court had only said if the expert witness testimony was going to be presented, it had to come from someone qualified to give it.

In the Rish case, plaintiff was rear-ended in stop-and-go traffic by defendant’s car. At the time of the crash, it was noted there was minimal property damage to both vehicles. Although an ambulance was called, both parties declined medical attention from EMS workers.

But days later, plaintiff’s neck began to ache and his head was throbbing. He sought medical attention, and received treatment.

He later filed a car accident lawsuit against defendant to recover for his injuries.

However, defendant sought to point out that the crash was low-impact, and therefore could not have caused injury. Plaintiff wanted to suppress this argument, and filed a motion to block all mention of the speed of the accident/ damage to the vehicles, on grounds that defense had not presented the expert witness testimony of a biomechanical engineer. Trial court granted this request.

The case was ultimately remanded for retrial, and plaintiff will now have a much steeper hill to climb to collect damages.

If you have been a victim of a traffic accident, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.

Additional Resources:

Rish v. Simao, March 17, 2016, Nevada Supreme Court

More Blog Entries:

Study: U.S. Drivers Increasingly Dangerous, Distracted Half the Time, March 21, 2016, Miami Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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