Burden On Defense In Multi-Accident Injuries To Prove Separate Causation (NJ)
In a recent case in the New Jersey Appellate Division, the court held that when there are claims stemming from multiple car accidents, the burden is on the defense to prove that the resulting injuries were not caused solely by the accident in which they are the defendant, rather they must demonstrate that there are multiple different causes for the injuries.
In 2015, the Plaintiff was involved in a worker’s compensation claim that damaged her spine. One year later in 2016, she was involved in a three-car accident where she was treated for injuries prior to a second car accident in 2018. Following this 2018 accident, she claimed her injuries became much worse and her pain accelerated. The trial judge dismissed the case upon a motion for summary judgment filed by defendant due to the reasoning that plaintiff’s expert report did not compare the prior injuries of the worker’s compensation injury to the acceleration caused by the two subsequent accidents.
When considering defendant’s motion, the court relied on Davidson v. Slater, where the Supreme Court of New Jersey stated that “a plaintiff could carry her burden of moving forward in her non-aggravation case by demonstrating the existence of a permanent injury resulting from the automobile accident without having to exclude all prior injuries to the same body part.” Davidson v. Slater, 914 A.2d 282, 284 (2007). In the case at hand, defendants alleged that the plaintiff was the party that had to show proof of which accident caused which specific injuries and aggravations, but the Appellate Division found that the burden of proving the causative effect of multiple collisions in relation to injuries is with the defendant.
Thanks to Domenica Tomasetti for her contributions to this post. Please feel free to contact Tom Bracken with any questions.