Whether you have an injury from a previous accident, an ongoing illness, or a condition from birth that makes you more susceptible to injury, pre-existing conditions can impact your personal injury case in a number of ways. The defendant may try to use your condition to justify paying less for your injury, so it’s important to have expert help on your side.
How a Pre-Existing Condition Could Compromise Your Case
Regardless of your pre-existing condition, the defendant (i.e. the person or party responsible for your injury) is legally obligated to pay compensation for any harm they cause to you. As such, they do not need to pay damages for your pre-existing condition.
This area can get a little hazy, however. If some of your current pain, suffering, medical bills, and so forth can be attributed to your condition instead of your accident, then the defendant can reduce the damages they are obligated to pay. At times, this may be done unfairly, with damages being incorrectly assigned to your condition rather than your personal injury.
For instance, if you’d had back problems prior to your accident, the defendant may try to prove that they aren’t liable for paying damages for any back pain you’d have afterward, even if the accident caused that pain to get worse.
What Pre-Existing Conditions Add to a Case
On the other hand, an accident can often exacerbate the pain and suffering caused by pre-existing conditions. These damages can—and should—be paid by the defendant since they wouldn’t have occurred if not for the accident.
This includes cases where your condition made certain injuries more likely than normal, a rule referred to as the Eggshell-Plaintiff Rule (referring to the possibility of a plaintiff being as fragile as an eggshell). The party responsible for your injury cannot use your susceptibility to injury as a defense. If your injury resulted from their negligence, even if a condition made that injury more likely, they should be held liable for it.
For example, if an elderly person gets in an accident and suffers heavier injuries than a younger individual would, the defendant would still be responsible for those injuries, even though a pre-existing condition—namely the results of age—made those injuries more severe.
Countering the Difficulties
In scenarios where there’s a pre-existing injury involved, cases can get highly complex. It’s important to be able to demonstrate exactly what resulted from the accident, and for that, the use of an expert witness is often necessary, particularly when it’s not immediately clear how pre-existing conditions and new injuries interact.
An expert witness—such as a physician, surgeon, specialist, or another professional who has experience with your condition—can provide the insight needed to clearly assess what the defendant is liable to pay.
On top of that, there needs to be sufficient evidence to demonstrate how the accident caused your injuries. Photos of the accident, eyewitness accounts, and medical records all play a vital role in pursuing damages.
Finally, you need a competent attorney who will represent your best interests. Hart David Carson LLP can provide the legal representation you need in the event of a personal injury accident. To schedule a consultation, contact us today.