How Pre-Existing Conditions Impact Personal Injury Claims
Victims who discover they have pre-existing conditions need to understand how those can influence their injury cases and complicate accident claims; however, you should not be discouraged from pursuing compensation for your injuries. If you and your attorney can prove the accident severely worsened any pre-existing condition you had before the accident, you can likely receive full compensation.
Texas law does not allow accident victims to recover damages for physical or emotional problems they had before an accident. And yet, victims should be paid for all losses that can be traced back to the accident. This is often true because victims are more susceptible to injury because of pre-existing conditions.
Pre-Existing Conditions That Could Impact Personal Injury Claims
A generous list of factors could influence the ultimate outcome of your injury claim. A seasoned personal injury attorney can help you decide how best to handle your case. Any physical or mental condition that you may have experienced prior to the accident is likely a pre-existing condition. Examples of some can include:
- Heart condition
- Degenerative disc disease
- High blood pressure
- Spinal stenosis
- Type 2 diabetes
- Complications from previous medical treatments.
Being honest with your attorney about any pre-existing condition is absolutely critical in receiving fair compensation. Full disclosure allows you to create a solid reference point that – with the assistance of medical professionals – paints a clear picture of how the accident worsened that condition. Failing to disclose a pre-existing condition on the other hand, cannot only adversely harm your chances of a fair settlement of your claim, but can result in its denial altogether.
The Eggshell Plaintiff Theory
Under the “eggshell plaintiff” theory (also referred to as the “take your victim as you find him” rule), a personal injury victim must be viewed “as is.” This means the victim cannot be denied compensation simply due to a pre-existing condition that might have made it more likely that the victim would be injured – or that the injury is worse – than if the pre-existing condition did not exist.
The rule’s name comes from an imaginary case that illustrates the heart of the concept. Imagine that a negligent person injured someone but did not know that the victim’s skull was as thin as an eggshell. Such a pre-existing condition would naturally leave that victim very vulnerable to injury. So according to the “eggshell plaintiff theory,” the defendant is liable for all damages directly connected to his or her wrongful actions. It makes no difference if the perpetrator was unaware of the victim’s pre-existing condition, even if that condition played a role in the severity of the victim’s injuries at the hands of the negligent party.
Doubling Down on the Medical Evidence when Pre-Existing Conditions Exist
Medical records are important evidence in any personal injury claim. But they’re downright vital when pre-existing conditions are an element. They must provide details of your health before the accident as well as how – and to what degree – the mishap aggravated your pre-existing injury. Your attorney may use medical tests (before and after), physician reports, and testimony from expert medical professionals to prove your claim.
This is why your medical records must be as detailed as possible to comprehensively outline your physical profile. Documentation of your condition prior to and after the accident should describe in detail just how severe the injury was and how your life has been impacted.
The Documentation Must Withstand the Scrutiny of the Defendant’s Insurer
Insurance companies will inevitably argue that the victim’s pre-existing condition alone is the cause of the victim’s pain -- not injuries sustained in the accident. They will assert that the victim should be responsible for the medical costs of this “continued treatment.” But you should always remember that an insurance company’s goal is to pay the accident victim as little as possible.
Contrary to all the warm and fuzzy commercials about your friendly, empathetic insurance company, they don’t make money if they pay out more in claims than they take in from premiums. If you are an injured accident victim, especially if you have pre-existing health issues, retaining an experienced personal injury attorney to represent you and help get the maximum possible settlement for your circumstances is crucial to your injury claim.