Pre-Existing Injuries & Personal Injury Claims

When people are injured in accidents and especially when they forgo legal representation, the at-fault party’s insurance carrier may go to great lengths to devalue or deny the injured party’s claim altogether.

One of the oldest tricks in the book is for an insurance company to argue that the victim’s injuries existed before the accident, and therefore do not deserve compensation. How does an insurance company make such a claim?

When an injured person is unaware of their legal rights, they may agree to the insurance company’s request by signing a medical release form, which allows the insurance company to “pry” into their medical records (past and present).

By obtaining access to the plaintiff’s medical records, the insurance company can dig into the person’s medical records in hopes of finding something, anything, which can point to “pre-existing injuries.”

The goal of the insurance company is to claim the victim’s injuries were pre-existing and therefore, the insurance company can escape all responsibility for the damages.

Let’s say an elderly woman is prone to breaking bones because she has poor bone density; it does not mean that an insurance company can avoid paying her medical bills after she breaks her arm in a car accident.

Or, if an Army veteran has PTSD, it does not mean that he can’t suffer further emotional distress after being violently attacked by two large dogs, or after being beaten and robbed in a store parking lot. Or, if a football player had a head injury while playing football, that doesn't mean he can't collect damages for a head injury in a future car accident.

Eggshell Plaintiff Doctrine

The theory of “pre-existing injuries” in a personal injury case comes from what’s commonly known as the “eggshell plaintiff doctrine.”

Under the eggshell plaintiff doctrine, the law recognizes the fact that people’s pre-existing injuries can make them more susceptible to additional injuries, or more severe injuries, even from a minor fender bender. However, a victim’s pre-existing injuries do not minimize the liable party’s culpability.

In other words, the at-fault party is fully responsible for the victim’s injuries, even if they had pre-existing injuries or they were “eggshell plaintiffs.”

Accident victims should be aware that if they have a pre-existing physical or mental disability or condition, insurance companies are still fully liable if their policyholder’s negligence exacerbates or further aggravates the plaintiff’s pre-existing injuries.

If you’re looking for a Columbia personal injury lawyer, contact the Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC for a free case evaluation!

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