Staying Vigilant about the Evidence in a Personal Injury Trial
One of the most important advantages a good attorney provides is constant vigilance about the evidence that’s being admitted. Good counsel’s guard is never down during a trial—he or she is always listening closely to the testimony, ready to shout “objection!” at any moment. This skill is so important, in fact, that if you don’t raise an objection to the admission of evidence during a trial, you’re considered to have waived your right to complain about it on appeal. The rationale is that it isn’t fair to the trial court proceedings to allow lawyers to neglect an issue—or proceed as though they have no problem with it—and then claim it resulted in some egregious unfairness to their clients, worthy of reversing the verdict or granting a new trial. This issue is doubly important in cases involving personal injuries sustained as a result of an automobile accident, since their testimony of expert witnesses on medical issues so often determines the outcome.
Learning by Counterexample: Boyles v. A & G Concrete
The 2014 case of Boyles v. A & G Concrete shows what not to do. In that case, Mr. Boyles was the passenger in a pickup truck. As the truck was merging left at a point where two lanes narrowed into one, it was hit from behind by another truck—one owned by A & G Concrete company. As a result of the collision, Mr. Boyles had to undergo multiple surgeries on his back and neck. He suffered persistent pain, and even consulted with a neurosurgeon about his chronic discomfort. However, Mr. Boyles had been in two other auto accidents many years earlier—in 2001—and, for whatever reason, didn’t disclose their existence to several of his treating physicians. The concrete company decided to make this fact a major issue in their defense, and requested another medical examination of Mr. Boyles by their own doctor. That doctor concluded that the surgeries that he’d undergone were “unnecessary.”
Mr. Boyles, understandably, sought to exclude this testimony from the trial. But rather than preparing to be vigilant and vociferously objecting to its introduction, his counsel decided to take the lazy way out. Almost two years before the actual trial took place, his lawyer filed a boilerplate motion in limine (one heard outside the presence of the jury before trial) raising a variety of preemptive objections to the admission of evidence. At the time, the medical evidence from the concrete company’s doctor didn’t even exist yet. Although such motions are allowed under the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure, they aren’t a substitute for vigilance at trial. Later, the case was taken over by a new judge, who explicitly warned the lawyers that she wasn’t going to acknowledge the previous motion in limine, and that they’d have to object “in real time.” Mr. Boyles’ counsel, evidently asleep at the wheel, didn’t do so. When the defense lawyer asked a direct question of the expert witness whether the surgery was necessary, the answer passed by without objection.
Having a Vigilant Attorney Is Vitally Important
It’s thus no surprise that the trial court denied Mr. Boyles’ motion for a new trial. And no surprise that the Florida Court of Appeals affirmed the trial judge’s decision. Don’t end up in this situation. If you’ve been injured in auto accident, consult a personal injury attorney like those at Gary Roberts & Associates, P.A., who will conduct the trial the right way (which is to say, the attentive way).