Personal injury lawyers spend a lot of time combing through medical records. Usually they are looking for evidence as to the severity of their client’s injuries and working to rebut claims that the symptoms have some cause other than the accident. In one recent Montana case, the victim’s medical records may hold the key to whether a recent car accident was the cause of the victim’s death.
The victim in this case was an 80-year-old man. He was leaving a wake at a church in Butte and walking across the street when he was hit by a pickup truck. According to police, the victim was in the crosswalk when he was hit. He was taken to a local hospital, where he remained for almost a month before he died.
The 65-year-old driver of the pickup truck was given a breathalyzer test which showed he had been drinking. He was initially charged with negligent vehicular assault, a criminal charge that could result in a jail sentence of up to 10 years. Now that the victim has died, prosecutors are looking through the victim’s medical records to determine if the auto accident played a part in his death. If they conclude it did, the driver of the pickup will likely face more serious criminal charges.
News reports do not give much information about the victim’s injuries. In the event the victim’s family brings a civil wrongful death lawsuit against the driver, they will have to offer testimony by a medical expert as to the cause of the man’s death. The driver’s insurance company will likely hire a medical expert of their own, who might testify – depending upon what’s in the medical records – that the victim died from a medical condition unrelated to the accident. Given the victim’s age and the length of time he spent in the hospital before he died, it may not be a clear-cut case.
Source: Montana Standard, “Pedestrian hit by truck dies; County revisits charges against driver,” John Grant Emeigh, March 27, 2013