If you’ve been injured in a car accident caused by another driver’s negligence, you’re entitled to compensation for your medical care, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If you have a preexisting condition that is made worse by the accident, you are entitled to seek damages for any costs arising from the acceleration or aggravation of your condition.
However, preexisting conditions can significantly complicate a personal injury case. The defendant’s insurance company will aggressively try to limit its liability by arguing that your current condition is not related to the crash. You need an experienced personal injury attorney who can advocate for your right to full compensation for the harm you’ve suffered.
Preexisting Conditions Are More Common Than You Think
Even if you considered yourself to be in good health before the accident, you may have a preexisting condition that the insurance adjuster will use to try to limit your recovery. Some examples of common preexisting conditions in car accident claims include:
- Birth defects
- Degenerative conditions expected to worsen over time, such as osteoarthritis
- Injuries from past accidents, such as a previous traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Injuries that were in the process of healing at the time of the accident, such as a broken bone
- Mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression
All preexisting conditions you have should be disclosed to your attorney—even if you don’t believe they are relevant to your current claim. To maximize your recovery, your attorney needs to be fully aware of your condition before the accident.
The Eggshell Plaintiff Rule
The eggshell plaintiff rule states that the defendant’s insurance company can’t claim you should have been healthier or in better shape before the accident. If you already suffered from a medical condition, your case needs to be evaluated as you were at the moment of the accident. The defense is not allowed to claim you wouldn’t have been injured or that your injuries wouldn’t be as serious if you didn’t suffer from a preexisting condition. A driver’s violation of their duty of care isn’t erased simply because you have injuries that are more serious than that of the average car accident victim.
For example, imagine you were attending physical therapy to deal with the effects of a knee injury before your accident. If you hurt your knee in the crash and your doctor now recommends surgery, this should be included in your personal injury claim. If you hadn’t been in the accident, you’d still be treating your condition with physical therapy.
The eggshell plaintiff rule is particularly relevant in cases involving injured senior citizens. Older adults are more likely to have preexisting conditions, and their age makes it harder to recover from any car accident injury. For example, senior citizens are more likely to have broken bones from a car accident because everyone starts to lose bone density as they age. While a younger person would recover from a broken arm or broken leg fairly quickly, the same injury in a senior citizen is likely to lead to a significant decline in overall physical functioning. The eggshell plaintiff rule helps ensure victims are fully compensated for the effects of an injury regardless of their age.
Use Caution When Releasing Medical Records
After a car accident, it’s common for the at-fault party’s insurance company to request that an injured victim sign a form authorizing the release of their medical records. This includes records from treatment received after the accident but often includes prior medical history as well.
You should never sign a medical release without first having the document reviewed by your attorney. Allowing an insurance adjuster unrestricted access to your medical records lets them look for reasons to reduce or deny your claim. Your attorney can ensure the adjuster only has access to records that are necessary to resolve your case.
Expert Testimony May Be Necessary
Causation is a key element of winning a personal injury claim. You must be able to prove that your injuries were caused by the car accident and not by some other non-related factor.
If you have a preexisting condition, expert testimony from medical professionals familiar with your particular illness or injury may be needed to establish causation. This is another reason you need to contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible to protect your right to a fair recovery.
Have You Been Injured In A Louisiana Car Accident?
If you've been hurt in a car accident you need to speak with an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Alexandria office directly at 318.541.8188 to schedule your free consultation.