Following a series of unfavorable rulings in the Appellate Division over the past few years, New Jersey courts were generally of the view that biomechanical experts could not be called upon by defendants to opine that a minor automobile accident could not have possibly caused a serious medical condition. However, on March 6, 2008, the New Jersey Supreme Court announced its decision on Hisenaj v. Kuehner, ___ N.J. ____ (2008), reversing an appellate court that overstepped its bounds in throwing out the report of Harold Alexander, PhD., based upon the conclusion that it was not supported by reliable scientific methodology. Thus, the defendants were left with the prospect of facing exposure for significant medical treatment, including spinal surgery, for a motor vehicle collision occurring at less than ten miles per hour. However, the Supreme Court found that the studies Dr. Alexander relied upon, as opposed to those used for support in prior cases, included similar accidents and similar victims in terms of age, gender and physical composition. Thus, the opinions offered were sufficiently supported by scientific data for admissibility.
This was an important victory for insurance carriers in New Jersey, as juries will no longer be left to determine whether low impact collisions correlate to serious medical conditions, especially in the spine, which often times are pre-existing. However, it remains important for defense counsel to insist that their biomechanical experts rely upon the most recent and up-to-date empirical evidence.
TMWB maintains an extensive automobile liability defense practice, representing insureds on personal auto, as well as commercial policies.