Based on the statistics published by the Department of Health and Human Services, approximately 50 to 120 million young Americans have pre-existing conditions before accidents happen.
These pre-existing medical conditions are not new. About 8% of the elderly population in the United States suffer from chronic back pain. For example, if you have a pre-existing medical condition before a car accident, it does not necessarily bar you from receiving compensation for a car accident that worsened your back injury.
A common misconception is that pre-existing conditions make the case less valuable and compensable. However, a pre-existing condition can make a case profitable in many instances.
If you are involved in a car accident caused by your negligence, your compensation may be equitably reduced.
On the contrary, if it can be proven that your pre-existing condition worsened as a direct result of a car accident caused by another driver’s negligence, your compensation may be increased.
Remember, however, the insurance company may deny your claim without substantial evidence of the causal relationship between the accident and your worsening injury.
The compensation you will receive from a car accident largely depends on the surrounding circumstances of your case.
It is crucial, therefore, to understand the pre-existing conditions that could affect your claim for damages and the steps necessary to secure it.
Below is all the information you must consider when making a personal injury claim for a car accident.
How a Car Accident Worsen a Pre-Existing Condition
A pre-existing condition refers to any known illness, medical disease, or injury a person has been diagnosed with before signing up for an insurance policy.
A few of the most common pre-existing medical conditions are the following:
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI): If you have a history of any brain injury and hit your head during the crash, the car accident’s impact on your brain may aggravate your injury.
- Degenerative conditions: These conditions, such as degenerative disc disease or arthritis, may worsen due to the force of the crash, resulting in chronic pain and severe symptoms.
- Neck injuries: If you have an underlying condition concerning your neck, the external force from the accident may worsen your injury.
- Fibromyalgia: This chronic condition is debilitating in itself. If you are a car accident victim, you may suffer from severe pain and suffering.
- Brittle or fractured bones: These include osteoporosis and scoliosis, which, if exacerbated by the force of the car accident, can cause the aggravation of your musculoskeletal pain.
Two (2) ways a car accident may worsen a pre-existing condition:
First is the acceleration of a condition, which means that the effects of the disease are due to the accident. You may not have been aware of such a condition until the accident occurred. Second is the worsening or exacerbation of a pre-existing condition.
Remember that the aggravation of an underlying health condition applies to physical injuries and mental injuries.
For instance, you have post-traumatic stress disorder, primarily controlled before the accident. However, you suffered a relapse as a result of the accident. In this case, the defendant may be liable.
Here are some tips in the form of Supreme Court decisions to help you navigate the process of filing a claim and maximize your chances of getting the compensation you deserve.
Eggshell Skull Rule
Houston, Texas, adheres to the so-called Eggshell Skull Rule.
This doctrine means that the defendant will be liable for all your injuries, regardless of your condition, before the accident. Simply put, the defendant will compensate you for your injuries, even if your pre-existing condition made you susceptible to an aggravated injury.
Imagine you are suffering from osteopetrosis.
One day in a restaurant, you were involved in a slip-and-fall accident because a customer spilled a beverage behind you. Osteopetrosis causes your bones to weaken over time and thus break more easily. Although the fall was minor, you broke your hip because of your osteopetrosis.
In this case, the defendant will pay for all your injuries from the accident regardless of your osteopetrosis.
As you can see, your pre-existing condition does not preclude you from recovering damages from a car accident.
Koch v. United States
Most personal injury claims in the maritime industry are filed arguing that the accidents which occurred inside the vessel caused the aggravation of pre-existing diseases of the workers to the extent that they are now disabled.
The maritime company generally alleged that they are not liable because the physical condition of the workers pre-existed the accident on board the vessel.
A recent decision penned by the Fifth Federal Circuit made it hard for employers to implement this strategy.
The narrative of the instant case is as follows:
In 2002, Mr. Koch was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease. After two (2) years, he was diagnosed with multiple joint arthritis by a doctor who referred him to a rheumatologist. In another year, he was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome. Medical specialists made numerous recommendations to Mr. Koch, including a total knee replacement and a bilateral total knee replacement.
After his accident on board S.S ALTAIR, a vessel owned by the United States Maritime Administration, Mr. Koch’s doctors stated that his fall aggravated his pre-existing osteoarthritic conditions. As a result, Mr. Koch urgently needed a surgical bilateral knee replacement.
The District Court rendered a decision in favor of Mr. Koch. He was awarded damages of 2.83 million dollars for medical expenses, loss of consortium, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
The United States appealed this decision to the Fifth Circuit.
In the end, the Fifth Circuit ruled in favor of Mr. Koch and refused to limit the scope of the Mauer case. It reinforced the liberal interpretation of this principle: the United States will be fully liable for the injuries suffered by their workers, despite the pre-existing condition of Mr. Koch.
Exceptions to Koch v. United States
As held by the court in Koch v. United States, defendants are liable for all injuries caused by their wrongful acts, including those pre-existing injuries made more severe by accident.
There are two (2) exceptions to this general rule:
First, if a plaintiff is already incapacitated before the accident, the defendant is liable only for the exacerbation that he caused.
Second, when a plaintiff has an underlying health condition that would inevitably worsen, the defendant who caused the aggravation is entitled to have the plaintiff’s damages reduced to reflect the proportion of the damages that would have been suffered even without the subsequent injury.
What do these cases entail?
Simply put, the same rules and exceptions apply to victims of car accidents who have pre-existing medical conditions that were aggravated by the accident.
How to Secure a Personal Injury Claim
You may be entitled to a personal injury claim if you have been involved in a car accident. This claim is designed to provide you with financial compensation for any physical or mental injuries you suffered from the accident.
Personal injury cases are legal disputes when one person suffers damages, injuries, and losses from an accident or injury. The defendant will be responsible if the accident is not a hit-and-run case.
If the at-fault party is identified, the defendant’s insurance company will pay monetary compensation to the injured person, which includes but is not limited to medical bills as a result of the accident, future medical expenses, travel expenses, nursing care, and personal care expenses, lost wages and other benefits, permanent disability and impairment, wrongful death, loss of consortium, loss of quality of life, loss of enjoyment of life, — and the list goes on.
Personal injury claims make up the largest category of civil lawsuits representing over half of the personal injury cases recorded each year, of which car accidents are the most common cause of injury lawsuits. Car accidents can include collisions between two drivers when a driver hits a bystander or a pedestrian, or even when a driver hits a fixed object.
Houston, Texas, has 30/60/25 coverage for personal injury protection for car accidents. The law specifically requires you to have at least $30,000 of coverage for bodily injuries per person, up to a total amount of $60,000 per accident, and $25,000 coverage for property damages.
Therefore, if you have been involved in a car accident and are suffering from the worsening symptoms of your pre-existing conditions, it is essential to hire a car accident attorney as soon as possible. A skilled attorney can help you ensure that your pre-existing condition does not affect your compensation. Having an experienced attorney by your side can make all the difference in getting the fair compensation that you need for all your injuries.