The legal universe surrounding personal injury claims is a labyrinth filled with complexities that only become more intricate when pre-existing injuries enter the picture. These are injuries or medical conditions that a person had before the accident that led to the personal injury claim. Given the potential complications such pre-existing conditions may introduce, it is important to understand their possible impacts on your personal injury claim.
The first thing to understand is what exactly is classified as a pre-existing condition. This could be anything from old sports injuries to chronic conditions like arthritis or heart disease. These are conditions that were present before the accident in question occurred.
In personal injury cases, the plaintiff is tasked with proving that the defendant’s actions led to their injuries. When there’s a pre-existing injury, the defense can argue that the damages should not be fully attributed to the incident in question, but rather to the pre-existing condition. This can complicate matters, potentially diminishing the value of your claim or even leading to its dismissal.
The defense will attempt to leverage an existing legal doctrine called the “Eggshell Skull” or “Take Your Victim as You Find Them” rule. This rule acknowledges that defendants must take responsibility for the full extent of the injury caused, even if the victim’s pre-existing condition made them more susceptible to severe injury. However, defendants are not liable for the original condition itself, only the extent to which it was exacerbated or aggravated.
One of the most crucial aspects in dealing with pre-existing injuries in personal injury claims is the issue of disclosure. It might seem intuitive to avoid mentioning any pre-existing conditions to your lawyer or in your claim, with the hope of not complicating the case. However, this is not a wise course of action.
Non-disclosure or misrepresentation can significantly damage your case, as it may raise questions about your credibility. Medical records are discoverable evidence, and if your non-disclosure is discovered, it could potentially lead to a dismissal of your case. Therefore, honesty about your medical history with your lawyer is paramount.
It is important to establish whether the incident in question aggravated a pre-existing condition, leading to additional harm. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you draw this distinction.
For instance, if you had a latent back injury that had no symptoms until a car accident triggered severe pain, this could be viewed as an aggravation of the pre-existing condition. On the other hand, if you were already experiencing chronic back pain before the accident, it could be harder to argue that your condition was significantly aggravated.
Medical expert testimony is critical in these situations. Physicians can provide their professional opinion on the effect the accident had on your pre-existing condition. This testimony can be instrumental in establishing whether the incident aggravated your pre-existing condition.
Insurance companies play a pivotal role in personal injury claims. They’re typically the ones to pay out compensation. With pre-existing conditions, insurers often try to reduce their liability by attributing the injuries to the existing conditions. This is a tactic employed to minimize the payout amount.
Therefore, it’s essential to have an attorney who understands how to navigate these challenges and negotiate with insurance companies. Thorough medical documentation that clearly outlines how the accident aggravated your condition will be crucial during negotiations.
Building a strong personal injury case with pre-existing conditions involves a few key elements:
Dealing with a personal injury claim when you have a pre-existing condition can seem daunting. However, with understanding, honesty, and professional legal representation, it is entirely possible to successfully navigate the process. Remember, the cornerstone of a strong claim lies in the fine balance between your credibility as a plaintiff, the strength of medical evidence, and the expertise of your legal representation.
The labyrinth might be complex, but with the right guidance, you can navigate through it and reach a just resolution. After all, a pre-existing condition should not be a roadblock to getting the fair compensation you deserve following an accident.