Will a Pre-existing Condition Impact My PI Claim?
A pre-existing condition can impact your personal injury claim; however, it does not prevent you from being compensated for your injuries.
A pre-existing condition is an injury, illness, health issue or physical limitation that affected you before you were involved in a car accident. In other words, those conditions were not caused by the car accident, rather, they were conditions that you suffered from before you were involved in a car accident.
The Eggshell Plaintiff Doctrine
Under California law, the at-fault driver takes the injured party as he/she finds them at the time of the car accident. This is known as the Eggshell Plaintiff Doctrine. The Eggshell Plaintiff Doctrine provides that if a person has a pre-existing condition and that condition is aggravated or exacerbated by the car accident, then the at-fault driver is responsible for that – the aggravation or exacerbation of the injured party’s pre-existing condition or injury.
Insurance Companies are NOT on Your Side
The insurance companies routinely conduct background searches on injured parties using an ISO Claimsearch database. This database is used to detect fraudulent claims as well as identify all claims that an injured party may have made in their lifetime. The insurance companies use this information to minimize your injury claim, diminish your credibility as an injured party, and shift the blame from the at-fault driver to a pre-existing condition or a prior and/or subsequent car accident.
Be Fully Transparent With Your Attorney
The best way to deal with this is to be open and honest with your attorneys and doctors by informing them of all your pre-existing conditions, pre-existing injuries, and any other car accidents that you may have been involved in even if you don’t remember the exact date, location, and details. Whether it happened right before the car accident or 20 years ago, it does not matter, be open and honest about it. You should provide whatever information you have with respect to your pre-existing conditions and/or prior or subsequent car accidents – this includes medical records, x-rays, MRI films, CT scans, billing records, photographs, notes, and communication. From this information, your attorneys and doctors will be able to determine your physical health prior to the car accident and how your physical health was impacted, and whether there was any aggravation or exacerbation of any pre-existing conditions or injuries.
It is possible that you are involved in a car accident or an injury producing event such as a slip and fall or a trip and fall, or you get diagnosed with a new medical condition after the car accident. If that happens, do not hide it! What you need to do is continue being open and honest with your attorneys and doctors by letting them know what happened since the last time you spoke to them or your last doctor’s appointment. If you do not tell your attorneys and doctors in real time, this information will be discovered at some point because the insurance companies will continue to investigate you.
By providing this information you are not hurting your personal injury claim. In fact, the opposite is true. If you are dishonest about you pre-existing condition or injuries, or subsequent injuries and conditions, you will hurt your personal injury claim. Your dishonesty will diminish your credibility as an injured party. The insurance companies will use your dishonesty to their advantage and attempt to persuade the jury to not believe you, your version of the accident and your injuries.
In fact, pre-existing conditions can make your case better because prior injuries and conditions can make you more susceptible to injuries. Your pre-existing conditions or injuries can make it easier for you to suffer more significant injuries. For example, if you have back pain and are involved in a car accident, you will likely suffer more significant injuries than someone without any prior back pain.
California Law Regarding Pre-Existing Conditions
In California there are two jury instructions on pre-existing conditions that are read to the jury before they go into deliberation where they decide how much money they will award you.
California Civil Jury Instruction (CACI) § 3927 – Aggravation of Preexisting Condition or Disability provides that “Plaintiff is not entitled to damages for any physical or emotional condition that he/she had before the at-fault driver’s conduct occurred. However, if the injured party had a physical or emotional condition that was made worse by the at-fault driver’s wrongful conduct, you must award damages that will reasonably and fairly compensate the injured party for the effect on that condition.”
CACI §3928 – Unusually Susceptible Plaintiff provides that “You must decide the full amount of money that will reasonably and fairly compensate the injured party for all damages caused by the wrongful conduct of the at-fault driver, even if the injured party was more susceptible to injury than a normal healthy person would have been, and even if a normally healthy person would not have suffered similar injury.”
The jurors are told to award reasonable and fair compensation for your injuries and any condition that was made worse by the at-fault driver’s wrongful conduct. The jurors are also told that you are entitled to compensation regardless of how unusually susceptible you may have been to suffer the claimed injuries due to your pre-existing conditions or injuries.
Therefore, regardless of your pre-existing conditions and/or prior or subsequent car accidents, you deserve to be compensated for your injuries by the at-fault driver. The at-fault driver will be responsible for the change in your physical or emotional condition and any limitations, and any aggravation or exacerbation of your pre-existing conditions or injuries after the car accident.
Don’t hesitate to reach out to our team of trusted attorneys here at JT Legal Group. We are ready to fight for you.