If injured in an accident, whether it occurs in a motor vehicle or on someone else’s premises, and you have a pre-existing medical condition or injury, what should you know to insure that you complete all of those necessary tasks and undertakings that will enable you to receive the fairest amount of compensation for your injuries as they exist after your most recent accident?
Plaintiffs with pre-existing conditions may still receive damage awards for later injuries. A defendant must take plaintiffs as they find them — in the condition they are in at the time of the accident. This is known as the “soft-shell” plaintiff. If an accident victim is injured independently of the pre-existing condition or if the victim’s well-being was damaged by the accident, which would include any the worsening of the pre-existing condition, causation under the law exists and recovery is proper. Caputo v. ABC Fine Wine & Spirits, 93 So.3d 1097 (Fla. 1st DCA 2012). Thus, it is important that the injured party and potential plaintiff undertake certain actions to maximize his or her recovery.
First, make sure that you fully and promptly disclose any pre-existing injuries or conditions. Your credibility is crucial to your recovery. Showing up for a deposition wearing a neck brace or holding your back and complaining of pain for the first time is not the best way of demonstrating your ability to be truthful.
2nd, Request your past and current medical records immediately. If your pre-existing condition was serious enough to warrant a physician’s recommendation of medical tests like MRIs or CT scans, and you took such tests, obviously, updated tests will be necessary. An experienced personal injury attorney can compare past and present medical records, as well as test results, to objectively determine how the accident aggravated your preexisting condition. Your attorney can help you enlist the necessary expert witnesses to provide testimony of the medical facts to reliably measure and describe your condition presently but also before the accident.
Physicians as expert witnesses can testify as to how the accident affected the plaintiff’s condition by reviewing medical records like X-rays and MRIs taken within relevant time frames. Testimony of experts can ascertain relevant evidence related to the plaintiff’s pain, disability, and necessary future care before and after the accident. If some permanent disability has resulted because of the accident, some percentage of which is attributable to the prior condition or injury, an expert can apportion the extent of the plaintiff’s disability aggravated by the accident.
3rd, Note when you last had the pre-existing condition treated. If you have a significant history of medical treatment for a particular part or area of the body, the potential settlement of your personal injury case may reduced. If you were treated by a physician or therapist once a month for pain in the year before an accident, then this may reduce the value of your claim. If you had an MRI one year before your accident and it showed a herniated disc in your back, and you are claiming that you have pain at the same area in your back where the damaged disc is located, your case may present more difficulty.
4th, Note the time when you last complained of pain. If you recently complained of pain before an accident, it may make your case more problematic. If you complained of pain or discomfort in the same area of your body that you are alleging was injured in your current case, seven years before the accident, then this alone shouldn’t negatively affect your case significantly. If you complained of pain only one week before the accident, then this may be to your disadvantage affecting the amount of any settlement offer.
A preexisting injury may cause you to be in a weakened condition, causing you to be more susceptible to injury, thus causing aggravation of the condition. If you have a pre-existing medical condition and have recently been involved in an accident aggravating this condition, you should contact Board Certified Personal Injury attorney Bryan Caulfield. Bryan Caulfield has decades of experience in all personal injury cases. Call Bryan Caulfield today for a consultation at (727) 796-8282.