Pre-Existing Conditions and Motor Vehicle Accidents

May 14, 2018 / Vehicle Accidents

If you have a pre-existing medical condition and have sustained injuries in a motor vehicle crash where the other party was negligent, you may be concerned that you cannot win your case. While it can be more difficult to win, having a pre-existing condition does not negate the fact that the other person caused the accident and that you are suffering in ways that you weren’t before the accident.

The insurance company for the at-fault party in a car crash will always try to pay you as little as they think they can. That’s the way insurance companies make a profit; never forget they are in business to make money. However, if the accident aggravated your pre-existing condition, you may be able to win your case under something often called “the eggshell skull rule,” “the eggshell plaintiff rule,” or “the eggshell doctrine.”

What is the Eggshell Skull Rule?

The term is named after a law school example of someone with such a thin skull that he becomes severely injured or dies from a blow to the head that would only bruise another person. The rule indicates that the at-fault party must pay for any damages suffered by the injured person, even if the harms they suffered were much worse than anyone would expect.

An example would be a person who has a pre-existing disc injury that no longer bothers them and who lives an active life—they work, they exercise, they coach their kid’s ball team. Then this person, while driving, is hit by someone operating their vehicle while under the influence. The force of the accident twists the spine of the person not at fault in such a way that the fragile disc is re-injured. As a result, the person suffers severe pain, must spend time in the hospital, must have extensive physical therapy, and can’t work for weeks, losing wages.

In this case, if the not-at-fault person had a healthy back, their injuries and pain likely could have been much less significant. The not-at-fault person, even though they had a pre-existing condition, had lived a normal life. The crash caused by the drunk driver “broke their eggshell skull,” creating serious injuries.

Pre-Existing Injury Conditions

Some common medical conditions that could be made much worse by a motor vehicle collision include:

  • Herniated or bulging discs
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Past broken bones
  • Back or neck muscle strains
  • Hernias
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Arthritis
  • Old joint injuries, especially to the shoulders and knees
  • Old brain injuries like concussions.

Almost everyone, if they live long enough, will end up with at least one pre-existing condition, so a person’s age is usually taken into consideration. An active person who engages in normal activities will accumulate injuries in the normal course of living several decades.

How Do I Proceed with My Case?

First, make sure you have skilled legal representation who understands how to take on an injury case that involves pre-existing conditions. Once you have secured capable legal representation, tell your lawyer everything about your medical history.

Second, do not, under any circumstances, give what is known as a “recorded statement” to the at-fault party’s insurance company. Anything you say, even if it is the complete truth, can potentially be twisted and used against you.

Third, make sure your doctor knows everything about your medical condition, because your medical records and your doctor’s testimony will likely be critical to winning your case. If your doctor testifies, and your records demonstrate, that you were living a normal life prior to the accident despite your pre-existing condition, you are more likely to succeed. Plus, you never want to put your doctor in the position of having to answer a question about your medical history by admitting that they don’t know.

Fourth, you will likely have to release your medical records to the at-fault party’s insurance company, but they are not entitled to see your entire medical record. A skilled attorney will ensure that the insurance company sees only the medical records that are pertinent to your current injury.

Finally, even with the best case, sometimes awards can be reduced because of pre-existing conditions, even if you meet the conditions for the eggshell skull rule. However, with the right legal firm, you can pursue securing the financial justice that you deserve.

Serving Accident Victims in Indiana Since 1982.

When you are considering hiring an Indiana car accident lawyer, you should seek an attorney who will provide competent and compassionate representation with a “client first” approach. That’s exactly what you’ll get with proven advocate attorneys Mike Stephenson and Brady Rife at Stephenson Rife. Mike and Brady, as well as the entire legal team, are committed to doing whatever is necessary to achieve the best possible outcome for your case.

If you think you might have a case, keep in mind that in Indiana there is a statute of limitations – or a deadline – for filing personal injury claims, so it is unwise to delay. If you were injured as a result of someone else’s negligence, don’t lose the opportunity to obtain the money you need to put your life back on track and secure your family’s financial future. Call Stephenson Rife today, or use our online contact form if you prefer.


Attorney Mike Stephenson

Attorney Mike StephensonMike Stephenson has 40 years of experience and is a trusted advisor to many individuals and companies. His current practice is dominated by civil litigation in state and federal courts. He focuses much of his time on handling catastrophic injuries caused by all types of accidents, including motor vehicle, trucking, workplace injuries, product liability, and fire, just to name a few. He also works extensively in construction accidents. [ Attorney Bio ]

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