Previous injuries can affect your injury claim for two reasons. The first reason is that accidents such as car or truck accidents, work-related injuries, and slip-and-fall accidents, can exacerbate or aggravate pre-existing conditions. The second reason is that insurance companies might use your medical history to claim you were not injured in your recent accident.
A legal theory known as the “eggshell skull rule” states that an at-fault defendant is responsible for a plaintiff’s injuries regardless of how frail the plaintiff is. The most important takeaway from this rule is that if someone else’s negligence caused your injury, you should contact a personal injury lawyer to help you seek compensation, regardless of your condition before the accident.
Resistance from Insurance Companies
Fortunately, the law allows you to recover compensation following an accident, even when you have had a prior injury. However, these claims can be challenging to pursue and often meet resistance from insurance companies.
Insurance companies are in business to make money. So, whether you are dealing with another party’s insurance company or your own insurance company, you may need legal help to get the compensation you need.
If you have a pre-existing condition, it is best to take action as soon as possible. Any delays in reporting or treating your injury will be scrutinized and may be used as evidence to devalue your claim. Many accident victims are unaware of the tactics insurance adjusters use to protect the company’s bottom line.
Pursuing Compensation as an “Eggshell Plaintiff”
Law students learn about something called the eggshell plaintiff legal theory or eggshell skull doctrine, which applies to plaintiffs with pre-existing conditions. The analogy is that even if a person’s skull was as fragile as an eggshell, a negligent defendant could be liable for damaging it. The theory is sometimes called the “take him as he is” rule.
This legal theory asserts that the relative frailty of a victim is not a valid defense against a personal injury claim. A well-known example of a case that followed the eggshell rule is Tuite vs. Stop and Shop in Connecticut.
Despite the eggshell plaintiff principle, insurance companies may still try to shift focus onto your pre-existing injury to discourage you from pursuing damages. However, it is not your fault that you were previously injured. If you sustained severe injuries in an incident that would have caused someone else only moderate injuries, an attorney could help you get full compensation.
Damages Available for Aggravated or Exacerbated Injuries
If the part of your body that was injured in your recent accident has been damaged previously, you should disclose this in your injury claim. The insurance company cannot deny your claim just because you were more vulnerable in the accident due to prior injuries.
Whether an accident causes new injuries or worsens pre-existing ones, available damages may include the following:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Disfigurement and scarring
- Physical pain and emotional trauma
The fact that you are more susceptible to injury does not mean you should be paid any less. However, your claim might be denied if you are dishonest with the insurance company.
Disclosing Pre-Existing Injuries or Conditions
Always talk to your lawyer about any relevant injuries or issues you had before the accident. Concealing pre-existing conditions will not benefit your case and can reduce your chances of obtaining an equitable settlement. Specifically, if a new injury affects the same part of your body as a previous injury, your entire case can be jeopardized by non-disclosure.
Insurance adjusters may try to blame everything on your previous injuries to minimize the amount they have to pay. They may even use your medical history to discredit your version of the events. Because of the risk to your claim, it’s best to hire an experienced personal injury lawyer to assess your medical history and aggressively represent you.
When you have a previous injury, your attorney can help explain how that prior injury may affect the current accident case. A good personal injury lawyer knows that if the other party finds out that you had a previous injury or condition that you failed to disclose, your credibility could be brought into question.
When a person has an old injury, that injury may be worsened by a subsequent accident. Although a negligent defendant who caused the accident is not responsible for a plaintiff’s old injury, that defendant should still be held liable for exacerbating or aggravating that injury.
Accomplishing this will usually require apportionment between the pre-existing injury and the currently claimed injury. Your personal injury lawyer can consult with doctors and other professionals to help determine whether the old injury was aggravated and how much damage resulted.
With all that is at stake, it is crucial to provide details of your prior injuries to your medical care providers and lawyer. Doing so can help ensure effective treatment and facilitate accurate compensation.
Effects on Your Settlement
A pre-existing injury can affect your ability to achieve enough compensation to cover all of your treatment costs. This is because the negligent party might claim that you are using the recent accident to make someone else pay for your pre-existing condition.
If they succeed at their goal, this could decrease the amount of your settlement. To help prevent this from happening, you should enlist the help of a legal professional.
Getting Legal Assistance for a Personal Injury
The team at Fasig | Brooks can help you navigate the claims process so you can recover all of the losses you incurred. One of our experienced personal injury attorneys will know how to build a case that shows how the injuries from the accident affected your pre-existing medical problems and vice-versa.
Working with a skilled attorney will make it much harder for the other party’s insurance company to deny your claim or trivialize how much the accident has affected your life. Reach out today to schedule a free consultation with one of our accomplished personal injury lawyers.