Like many Americans, you may have aches, pains or other pre-existing medical conditions –conditions that could significantly impact a car accident injury claim. In fact, insurance companies have been known to use your pre-existing condition to resist paying you for your crash injury, which is why you need an experienced qualified car accident lawyer to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve.
Full Disclosure of Pre-Existing Injuries
In a car crash claim, you can’t be paid for a medical condition or injury that predates the accident. However, you are legally entitled to payments for injuries suffered in a crash, including any worsening of your pre-existing conditions.
That’s why the handling of such prior injuries is vital in a car wreck lawsuit. This begins with full disclosure of pre-existing injuries. You must reveal to your attorney the full extent and nature of all of your pre-existing medical conditions or injuries before a crash.
This includes injuries seemingly unrelated to your crash injury. Even if they are in different parts of the body, all prior injuries must be disclosed. If you do not disclose pre-existing conditions, you could lose credibility in your lawsuit.
Texas’ Thin Skull Rule
Texas law applies a “thin skull rule,” also known as an “eggshell,” “fragile skull” or “soft shell” rule. This means that tort law takes into account when a person is more fragile due to a pre-existing condition or injury, and because of it suffers more in a crash than if they had not had such an injury or condition prior to the accident.
Thus, you are not penalized for having a weakened condition or injury before the wreck – a wreck which caused you to be injured more severely than someone who did not have such a condition or injury. Defendants must accept plaintiffs as they find them at the time of the crash.
Asserting this thin skull rule as an “eggshell plaintiff” is especially important in a low-impact crash where a jury may be skeptical of severe injuries occurring. By asserting the thin skull rule or eggshell rule, plaintiffs can be credited for an injury that became worse than normal in a low-impact crash due to their pre-existing frailty or fragility.
The bottom line is that the at-fault driver and his or her insurer are responsible for your injury in a crash, whether you were 100% healthy before the impact or you had a pre-existing injury or condition which was aggravated by the crash.
It may not be the defendant’s fault that you were more fragile prior to the crash, but it is the defendant’s responsibility or liability if the crash aggravated or worsened your condition and caused you greater injury.
Your lawyer can fight to ensure you are paid for such injuries. Your attorney can also help you resist insurers’ attempts to assert that a car crash injury was entirely or largely a pre-existing condition for which the defendant is not accountable.
Comparing Medical Records
Having a pre-existing injury can help plaintiffs since their lawyer can compare medical records, showing their condition before and after the crash and how it worsened. Such comparisons can provide objective evidence of the nature and extent of injuries resulting from a crash. Thus, it is vital to maintain detailed medical records before and after a car accident.
An MRI test or X-ray made years before a crash can be compared with such tests after a crash to indicate the worsening of pain and injury due to a crash. An expert medical witness also can testify about how much an injury was worsened by a crash. If the crash significantly worsened a condition, plaintiffs should be able to claim more payments from defendants.
If medical records or medical experts can show that your prior injury was healed or largely healed, you may have an even stronger case for claiming payments for an injury caused in an accident, since the crash itself then would have caused all of your crash injury, and not just part of it due to a pre-existing condition.
An insurance company will try to blame as much of your crash injury as possible on a pre-existing condition, so as to avoid responsibility for it. In doing so, insurers may ask plaintiffs (the injured persons in a car wreck lawsuit) to sign a medical authorization providing complete access to their medical history.
You should not sign such a medical authorization, which could simply give insurers evidence to use against you. In fact, such a medical authorization invades your right to privacy.