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HOW PRE-EXISTING INJURIES AFFECT A CLAIM


Jul 4, 2017

If you have a pre-existing injury or condition that is closely related to the injuries you suffered due to a defendant’s negligence, the defendant will likely focus on the pre-existing condition and attempt to use it to avoid responsibility. Fortunately, California law entitles you to recover damages in such cases, so long as the pre-existing injury was exacerbated by the defendant’s negligence.

Under California law, injury claims require proof of damages. Pre-existing conditions complicate matters, since — arguably — if the damages are based on an injury that is closely related to the pre-existing condition, the defendant may argue that their negligent act(s) did not actually result in damages. The defendant will assert that the injuries (and damages) were there beforehand, and cannot be attributed to the defendant.

Suppose that you suffer from a spinal and nerve disorder that causes you to feel occasional burning sensations and pain in your limbs. You are subsequently injured in a slip and fall accident, where you fall on your back, resulting in damage to the spine. If your injuries (and symptoms) are closely related to those of the pre-existing condition — for example, if you claim that you are feeling occasional burning sensations and pain in your limbs — it will be difficult to show that you are entitled to recover damages, unless you can demonstrate some other new injury or that your pre-existing condition was materially worsened.

Exacerbation and Aggravation of Pre-existing Injuries

California law allows plaintiffs to recover for injuries that are closely related to pre-existing injuries and conditions. In California, the defendant must “take the plaintiff as they find them.” This is also knows as the “eggshell plaintiff” rule.

Defendants may be held liable when the plaintiff is inherently predisposed to injury in some manner, perhaps due to a pre-existing condition.

Elderly plaintiffs, for example, tend to have brittle frames that fracture easily and are sometimes impossible to fully repair. Suppose that a defendant-driver negligently collides with a car that has an elderly passenger, and thus causes fracture injuries to the elderly plaintiff. The injuries (and their consequences) are likely to be much more severe, due to the inherently weak frame of the elderly plaintiff. Despite this unfortunate luck, the defendant must “take the plaintiff as they find them.” In other words, the defendant is liable for the total damages they cause, even if those damages are high due to the pre-existing weaknesses and conditions of the victim, the “eggshell plaintiff.”

Aggravation and exacerbation of a pre-existing injurydo entitle the plaintiff to recover damages, but those damages are difficult to prove (you will have to show the exacerbation through expert medical testimony, testing, and other evidence) and will require well-chosen experts and the guidance of an experienced injury attorney.

A claim for the exacerbation of a pre-existing injury entitles the plaintiff only to those damages that result from the exacerbation or aggravation itself. For example, if you had a pre-existing back injury and are claiming aggravation damages, you will be entitled to recover only those damages specifically related to the worsening of the condition — the measurable differences between the pre-existing injury and the post-accident injury.

California law entitles plaintiffs with pre-existing conditions to successfully recover damages for new injuries, and for the exacerbation of their pre-existing condition. Though the defendant may try to defend your injury claim by focusing on your pre-existing condition, you can overcome this hurdle and obtain full compensation. Call West Coast Trial Lawyers at (888) 539-9582 for a free consultation with an experienced Beverly Hills personal injury lawyer today.

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