What If My Accident Made a Pre-Existing Injury Worse?

If you are dealing with injuries from an accident and have pre-existing injuries, working with an experienced accident attorney may improve your chances of getting the compensation you deserve.

There is no reason to believe that everyone in an accident was in optimal health just a minute before the accident. Some people have chronic conditions, others have active injuries in the treatment process, while others may be dealing with an illness or other health issue at the time of the accident.

Sadly, personal injury attorney Pendergrass has seen how having a pre-existing injury or condition can make an individual injury case much more complicated. This does not mean that you should not pursue a claim if you have been in an accident while dealing with a pre-existing injury. It just means you should prepare yourself for whatever obstacles might appear in your way as you pursue fair compensation.

What Are the Most Common Types of Pre-Existing Injuries or Conditions?

Although the list can be extensive, these are some of the most common pre-existing injuries:

  • Broken bones that are in the process of healing
  • Neck or back pain
  • Strains and sprains
  • Herniated discs
  • Traumatic brain injuries

Medical conditions can also be exacerbated following an accident. The most common of these conditions are:

Why Do Pre-Existing Injuries or Conditions Complicate a Personal Injury Claim?

When you are injured in an accident and decide to file a personal injury claim, you do so with the understanding that you are not pursuing compensation for injuries or conditions you had before the accident occurred.

However, if the accident worsened your pre-existing injuries or conditions, you want the party at fault to be held financially liable for your current situation.

Although it may be clear in your mind what conditions worsened due to the accident, it is not so simple to prove causation in many cases. The body does not work in a straight line, and it may be difficult to ascertain how each injury progresses. This may make it more difficult to both determine liability and calculate damages.

The Link Between Causation and Pre-Existing Injuries

One of the most challenging aspects of cases with pre-existing injuries is proving that the accident caused a specific injury. For example, if you never had headaches before the accident and they have become a regular part of your life since then, it is clear that the accident caused your headaches.

But suppose headaches have been a regular part of your life before you are involved in a car accident. In that case, the other party may argue that the headaches you are experiencing now were not caused by the accident—even if you know that they have increased in frequency and severity since the accident occurred.

In theory, you can try to show that your headaches were of a certain magnitude and type before the accident and that this has since changed. You can describe how you could control your headaches with over-the-counter medication and that you now need prescription painkillers to deal with the headaches you have experienced since the accident.

However, accurately measuring the strength of a headache becomes impossible, and it is easy for the insurance adjuster or the defendant’s lawyer to argue that you are exaggerating the effects the accident has had on your pre-existing condition.

The “Eggshell Plaintiff” Rule

The “Eggshell Plaintiff” rule holds that a party liable for injuries that the plaintiff has suffered must cover all the injuries, regardless of the plaintiff’s health condition before the accident occurred.

This means that the defendant must fully compensate the plaintiff for all the injuries, even if a pre-existing injury or condition worsens any injury. This is true even when the defendant could not have foreseen the extent or severity of the resulting injuries.

An example of this rule applies in a case where the plaintiff who suffers from osteoporosis slips and falls on a wet floor in a restaurant without signs to warn guests. As a result of the plaintiff having this pre-existing condition, many bones are broken, requiring surgery and lengthy physical therapy.

The “Eggshell Plaintiff” rule means that the restaurant is responsible for all the expenses incurred by the plaintiff, regardless of the plaintiff’s condition before the accident.

A Pre-Existing Condition May Also Work in Your Favor

If you suffered back pain for a while and were under treatment when the accident happened, you may be able to prove that a herniated disc in your back is a result of the accident.

This is accomplished by showing your MRIs or X-rays from before the accident that shows no herniated discs. This situation would work in your favor by establishing without a doubt when those herniated discs first appeared.

A pre-existing condition working in your favor is not always the case. Luckily, accident lawyers can work tirelessly, analyzing your medical records, talking to the physicians treating you, calling expert witnesses to testify on your medical condition, and building a solid case on your behalf.

Your accident lawyer will also seek a letter from your treating doctor stating that, in their professional opinion, the accident was the trigger that aggravated your pre-existing condition.

Your attorney may also call upon family, friends, and coworkers to testify about your activity level before the accident and how additional treatments have been required.

Working with an experienced accident attorney may improve your chances of getting the compensation you deserve if you are dealing with injuries from an accident and have pre-existing injuries.

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