Aggravation of Preexisting Injury in California
Most people have at least one injury or health issue. From a sore lower back to arthritic knees, muscle strains, previously broken bones and beyond, it seems like just about everyone has a medical problem of some sort. Such pre-existing injuries and conditions make the quest for justice in the aftermath of a personal injury that much more complicated.
Financial Recovery for an Existing Injury
If an individual is involved in an auto accident or any other accident and that accident results in additional pain or restrictions, the party at fault should be held legally liable. However, in general, those injured in auto accidents are not permitted to recover financial compensation for injuries that already exist. Thankfully, there is a caveat to this generality.
If the accident in question aggravates the injury, it is possible to recover financial compensation applicable to the full extent of the injury. However, attempting to obtain justice on your own is a nearly insurmountable challenge. If you are involved in any type of accident, it is imperative you lean on a proven personal injury attorney to help obtain the financial compensation you need to return your life to at least a semblance of normal.
Defining Pre-existing Injuries and Conditions
Pre-existing conditions are injuries, conditions or illnesses and individual had prior to getting in an accident. Pre-existing injuries can include physical health conditions as well as mental health conditions. Examples of common pre-existing injuries and conditions include arthritis, depression, degenerative disc disease, diabetes, anxiety and headaches. However, if medical records do not show evidence of the pre-existing condition, it will be difficult to successfully argue it actually exists.
The individual sued in a personal injury case finds out about the supposed victim’s pre-existing condition during the question and answer period prior to the court hearings. This process is referred to as discovery. Opposing counsel exchange relevant information with one another including medical records. If the victim attempts to conceal the pre-existing injury or pre-existing condition, it will ultimately make the quest for financial compensation that much more difficult. The bottom line is it simply does not make sense to attempt to conceal information pertaining to a pre-existing injury.
The Eggshell Rule
The Eggshell Rule essentially states the party at fault for the accident will be financially responsible for the resulting injuries as long as those injuries are causally related to the accident in question. If the injuries are particularly bad as a result of the pre-existing condition, the defendant is still financially responsible because his or her negligence aggravated or worsened the already-existing injury. This rule is referred to as the eggshell rule as those who already have an injury or condition and are subsequently victimized in accidents are comparably fragile, meaning they are metaphorically walking on eggshells.
However, California eggshell plaintiffs have the opportunity to obtain financial compensation for injuries suffered in an auto accident. In other words, this rule states the defendants in personal injury lawsuits take the plaintiffs as they are found, meaning defendants are not allowed to argue they cannot be liable for injuries that might not have occurred had the plaintiff not already been injured in the past.
The Insurance Company’s Stance
Insurance providers are likely to attempt to bypass legal liability for the worsening or aggravation of a pre-existing injury or condition. However, a savvy attorney will provide medical records and/or testimony from expert witnesses to bolster their case. As an example, an x-ray of a bone taken before the accident might show degeneration yet an x-ray taken after the accident might reveal a clear fracture or a break. Though the at-fault party is not legally liable for the underlying condition, he or she is liable for additional injuries caused by the accident.