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Aggravation of Pre-Existing Medical Conditions

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Jeff Sevey

If you’ve been in an auto accident that has caused aggravation of your pre-existing medical conditions, you may think that you’re not entitled to compensation, but the truth is, you are! While you can’t recover compensation for the pre-existing condition, you are absolutely entitled to receive compensation for the extent of the aggravation that has occurred due to the accident.
The California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) that are read to a jury before trial are as follows:

  1. Aggravation of Preexisting Condition or Disability

“[Name of plaintiff] is not entitled to damages for any physical or emotional condition that [he/she] had before [name of defendant]'s conduct occurred. However, if [name of plaintiff] had a physical or emotional condition that was made worse by [name of defendant]'s wrongful conduct, you must award damages that will reasonably and fairly compensate [him/her] for the effect on that condition.”
This particular jury instruction is very important, as you can see, because it sets out that the victim (plaintiff) is entitled to compensation for the aggravation of injuries that might have been present already. The insurance companies will often keep quiet about the jury instruction because they know it is likely to result in their having to pay out more on a claim.
After your accident, when you’re choosing an attorney to represent you, it pays to have a lawyer that is well-versed in the sneaky tactics that insurance companies use to lessen the amount of your settlement, such as the jury instruction tactic cited above. The attorneys at The Sevey Law Firm have many years of experience in dealing with insurance companies and their adjusters, and they know how to handle these tactics, and counter them so that you receive every bit of compensation that you deserve after an accident.

The Importance of Honesty

The insurance company will always inflate the importance of any pre-existing medical conditions you have, and they’ll try to use this information to intimidate you into settling for less than you’re truly entitled to for your the aggravation to your injuries. They’re hoping that you think you aren’t entitled to anything, so you’ll take what they offer. Your attorney, though, knows what you’re really entitled to. And this is why it’s imperative that you are completely honest with your attorney when it comes to answering questions regarding your past medical history.
If you’re found to have not been forthcoming about any and all pre-existing conditions, it will affect the way the judge and jury view you. In legal terms, the defense will argue that you have “credibility issues” as well as “causation issues.” If your case goes to trial, the defense will have the right to “discover” the information regarding you, your past medical conditions, and current injuries. If you haven’t been honest about your pre-existing conditions, your medical records will show this, and it will negatively affect the outcome of your case.

Pre-Existing Condition Treatment Scenarios

When you’ve been in an accident that has aggravated a pre-existing condition, it’s likely that one of these three scenarios is happening:

  1. No Previous Treatment - If you weren't receiving any treatment prior to the accident for the injured area, your medical records will reflect this. If you were being active, working, and doing housework, etc. without any difficulty, it will be relatively easy to prove that the accident aggravated a pre-existing condition, whether or not you were even aware of it. This is commonly seen in pre-existing conditions such as degenerative spine conditions, where you haven't had any overt or acute symptoms such as stiffness or pain, but after the accident, suffer from those symptoms as well as limited mobility.
  2. Some Previous Symptoms and/or Treatment - You’ve previously received medical treatment for the pre-existing condition, but the accident that occurred has aggravated the condition and made you seek out additional treatment. When you hire one of the experienced attorneys at The Sevey Law Firm, it is our job to prove how the accident has aggravated your pre-existing condition. We’ll review your past medical records, and we may interview your doctor to obtain a written statement regarding their professional opinion on your past and present conditions. This statement will be considered evidence and will be integral to the success of your case, and it will be presented to the insurance company as part of the package that we’ll use to help settle your claim for the compensation you deserve.
  3. Active Treatment of Condition - The most difficult scenario happens when you’ve been recently treated for a pre-existing condition before the accident occurred that aggravated your symptoms. This is a challenging situation because your doctor will have to determine the degree of aggravation due to the accident. In this situation, it becomes very important for you to explain how your activities have been limited due to the accident. Doing so will allow your doctor to document these new limitations and will assist them in differentiating your before-accident symptoms with after-accident symptoms.

The Eggshell Plaintiff Doctrine

If you have pre-existing medical conditions or prior injuries, you are considered an “eggshell plaintiff.” What this means is that you are more fragile and susceptible to injuries than the average person is. The eggshell plaintiff doctrine states that the defendant is responsible for injuries to the victim, including those that are not overtly apparent. What this means for the defendant is that they are liable for the damage the accident caused even if they were unable to predict the severity of the injuries due to the fragile nature of the victim.

Contact Us for a Consultation Today!

If you have been in an accident that has resulted in the worsening of your pre-existing condition, you’re entitled to compensation for the aggravation of the condition that you’ve suffered. The attorneys at The Sevey Law Firm welcome you to contact us for a free consultation. We can assess your situation and give you our professional opinion regarding the strength of your case. You can reach us by phone at (916) 788-7100 or through our website contact page.

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