How do preexisting conditions complicate personal injury claims for motor vehicle accidents?

| Apr 14, 2021 | Personal Injury |

The ordeal of treating an injury after a car accident can be particularly challenging when someone has a preexisting condition. A serious medical condition may become a lot worse, or the path to recovery could be significantly longer than it would have been if someone were perfectly healthy.

Traditionally, courts apply a principle known as the “eggshell skull rule” which states that “you take your plaintiff as you find him.” In effect, this means that a defendant will be liable for negligence regardless of a plaintiff’s unique vulnerability to serious injury due to a health issue. Nevertheless, a preexisting condition could present some evidentiary obstacles to getting just compensation for injuries.

Progressive conditions

Some medical conditions may worsen over time. Plaintiffs must demonstrate that the worsening or aggravation of a condition was the direct result of the accident and not a natural progression of the condition itself.

Recurrence of symptoms

Certain conditions such as spinal cord problems or orthopedic issues may present symptoms that come and go over time. A person who has been free of symptoms for some time may experience a recurrence of symptoms after an accident. Defendants or their insurers may try to take the position that these symptoms were present before the accident and not the result of it.

Ultimately, personal injury plaintiffs need substantial medical evidence to demonstrate that their pain and suffering resulted from a defendant’s negligence. Having a preexisting condition will not prevent plaintiffs from recovering damages, However, they should anticipate that it may be more difficult to prove that their injuries are attributable to the accident.