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State Supreme Court Finds No Basis for Summary Judgment after Expert Opinion Testimony

Posted in Auto Accidents

Expert witness testimony comes into play in a significant number of New Mexico car accident cases. Understanding the rules regarding expert witnesses is important for all potential personal injury plaintiffs. Recently, one state’s supreme court reversed a lower court’s judgment that granted a plaintiff summary judgment in a car accident case. The lawsuit stemmed from a 2014 accident in which an individual rear-ended the plaintiff.

After being hit, the plaintiff received medical care and was diagnosed with right shoulder strain and whiplash. The plaintiff continued treatment for the psychological and physiological issues she suffered following the accident. Subsequently, she began receiving advance payments from the other driver’s insurance company. At some point, the insurance company asked to have an independent medical examiner review the plaintiff’s medical records to determine whether her ongoing issues were actually a result of the accident. The plaintiff refused to comply with providing documentation, but the medical examiners nonetheless concluded that there was no actual physiological damage and that most of her continued pain was psychological.

Despite this finding, the plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that there was no genuine issue of material fact to dispute that her ongoing damages were a result of the accident. In response, the insurance company argued that the opinions of the two independent medical examiners resulted in a question of material fact. The case was appealed all the way to the state’s supreme court, which concluded that after comparing the plaintiff’s affidavits with the independent medical examiners’, it was clear that there was a disputed issue of material fact. As a result, it was not clear whether the plaintiff’s ongoing expenses were actually related to the accident. Thus, the court remanded the case back to the lower court for further proceedings.

The Importance of Expert Witnesses in New Mexico Summary Judgment Motions

In almost any New Mexico personal injury case, the two major issues that are always contested are which law applies and what the facts of the case are. Generally, a judge or jury will decide these two matters after examining and considering testimony and evidence. However, in some circumstances, the parties will agree on certain facts, such as whether the parties were driving on a given road, or whether a road sign was present. If either the defendant or the plaintiff believes there are no material facts at issue, they may file a motion for summary judgment. This motion asks the court to decide the case on the undisputed facts.

Summary judgment motions are very important because they can result in an immediate decision without the hassle and emotional toll of a long, drawn-out trial. Summary judgment motions often depend on the testimony of an expert witness, which may either give rise to a material fact or negate such a finding.

Under New Mexico law, an expert is only permitted to testify “if scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue.” Furthermore, the expert must be qualified by their experience, training, and knowledge. If an expert is qualified, it is likely that their testimony will be weighed heavily. For the purposes of summary judgment, if an expert testifies, and that testimony puts into question an issue of material fact, a summary judgment motion will likely not be granted. Thus, it is important that plaintiffs understand the importance of expert testimony and choose an expert carefully.

Have You Been Injured in an Accident in New Mexico?

If you or a loved one has been injured in a New Mexico car accident, it is very important that you contact an attorney to assist you in pursuing the compensation you deserve. If you and your attorney come to the conclusion that there are no genuine issues of material fact, filing a summary judgment motion may be an efficient way to proceed. However, it is important that you follow all of the necessary procedural rules in filing these motions. An Albuquerque car accident attorney at the Fine Law Firm can assist you in developing and presenting your case effectively and efficiently. If you are successful, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for the injuries you sustained. Contact an attorney at the Fine Law Firm today at 800-640-6590 to schedule your free initial consultation.

More Blog Posts:

State Supreme Court Holds in Favor of Carnival After Fatal Injury, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, November 29, 2017.

New Mexico Supreme Court Explains Intricacies of Medical Malpractice Statute of Limitations, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, December 6, 2017.