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Crash Victim Torpedoes His Case in Two Easy Steps

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A car accident injury trial went south on the victim, and he likely has no one to blame but himself.

The case is recounted in a decision by the South Carolina Court of Appeals, filed on January 30, 2019, called Nestler v. Fields.

Nestler got hurt in a car crash and seemed to have a solid case. The at-fault driver admitted fault, so all Nestler had to do is prove how bad he was hurt to get compensated.

He focused his trial evidence on his pain and suffering, which I call “human loss.” His evidence included a cervical spine strain and left-elbow injuries that his doctor testified caused a 53% permanent impairment rating to his left arm. Nestler testified about consistent pain and limited left-arm motion. He also testified his injuries caused loss of enjoyment of his previously active life—and his wife backed him up on that at trial.

So far, so good—until the end. The jury gave him $7,117, the exact amount of his medical bills.

What happened? The opinion makes clear he did it to himself by ignoring two basic rules all accident injury victims must follow.

1. He Didn’t Do What the Doctor Said to Do, and He Didn’t Discuss Treatment Honestly.

In denying Nestler’s appeal for more money, the Court of Appeals observed:

The jury heard evidence that Nestler's treating doctor prescribed extensive physical therapy, a nerve conduction study, and other recommended treatments. It also learned Nestler attended only a fraction of the physical therapy and did not pursue the other options because he believed they would have been futile.

Nestler maintained the doctor told him he could stop treating if it didn’t help, so he stopped. But there was no evidence he told the doctor. This deprived Nestler of presenting a medical opinion that treatment didn’t help— potentially strong evidence of a severe injury.

Instead, he got stuck with looking like he wasn’t really hurt. And, as the Court of Appeals pointed out, the jury was free to issue a verdict based on that appearance. That’s exactly what happened.

WORD TO THE WISE: This is exactly why we tell all injury clients to be honest with the doctor. If you’re not, it’ll sink your case.

2. His Testimony About Unrelated Matters Seemed Dishonest

A key defense strategy in every case is to get untrue testimony about unrelated matters, often your past, and springboard that to argue you’ve lied about everything in your case.

Here, the defense attacked Nestler by cross-examining him on his memory. He claimed a semi-photographic memory, but he couldn’t remember a prior lawsuit from a past crash where he alleged permanent neck and back injuries. He also didn’t reveal that lawsuit in discovery, leading the judge to instruct the jury it could assume the withheld evidence would have hurt Nestler’s case.

WORD TO THE WISE: Tell the truth, even if it hurts. If you don’t, and the other side finds out, they will crush you with it. And they usually find out.

Now You Know

And knowing’s half the battle. If you’re pursuing an injury case, you’ve got to be upfront and honest or the defense will tear you down. Before you wreck your case, fill out our Get Help Now form to get your questions answered by a skilled accident injury attorney. You can also download our FREE REPORT on crash cases.

Wondering what it’s like to work with us? Check out these reviews on a site we don’t own.

Rob Usry
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Rob is a South Carolina personal injury and criminal defense lawyer.
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