What to Do If a Pre-Existing Injury Is Made Worse After a Car Crash

Imagine you are on your way home from the hospital after having successful knee surgery when suddenly you are struck by another vehicle. The accident reinjures your knee. 

As a result, you must restart your long road to recovery, including additional hospital visits, physical therapy, and even other surgical procedures. Is the driver who hit you at fault for your knee injuries?

Under California law, plaintiffs can recover for injuries sustained in a car accident regardless of their condition before a motor vehicle accident. 

What is a pre-existing injury? 

It is unlikely that an accident victim was in perfect health before the incident; a significant number of individuals suffer from pre-existing conditions. A pre-existing condition is any injury or illness you had before the time you were involved in a motor vehicle accident. 

Common Types of Pre-Existing Conditions 

In the example above, the plaintiff suffered from a pre-existing knee injury. However, there are many pre-existing injuries that a person could have. Below are some of the most common. 

  • Back, neck, and shoulder injuries 
  • Herniated discs
  • Traumatic brain injuries 
  • Arthritis 
  • Migraines and headaches 
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Torn ligaments or tendons 

Some pre-existing injuries are incredibly susceptible to aggravation. For example, neck and back strains can easily be reinjured after a new accident. 

These injuries take time to heal, and a new motor vehicle accident can compromise the treatment you have already undergone. For that reason, monitoring your symptoms after even the most minor of accidents is essential. 

The Eggshell Plaintiff Rule 

California law does not preclude plaintiffs from recovering for damages suffered in a motor vehicle accident simply because they sustained injuries or had health conditions before the crash. 

Instead, California courts state that a plaintiff is entitled to the amount of money that would compensate a plaintiff for all of the damages caused by the motor vehicle accident. 

This is true even if the plaintiff was more susceptible to an injury than someone in good health would have been. Therefore, even if a healthy individual would not have been injured in the motor vehicle accident, a plaintiff is still entitled to reasonable compensation. This concept is referred to in California as the “eggshell plaintiff” rule. 

Applying the eggshell plaintiff rule to the example above, the driver who hit the plaintiff with the injured knee would be responsible for any further medical treatment the plaintiff has to undergo for their injured knee. Even though the plaintiff was more susceptible to injuries, they are still entitled to compensation under California law.

How to Prove that an Accident Aggravated Your Injuries 

In the example above, it would be easy to see that the plaintiff’s knee injury was exacerbated by the accident. However, in other cases, it is more difficult to prove that the accident worsened the injuries you already had. 

For example, suppose that a plaintiff had daily headaches before a motor vehicle accident, and her headaches became more severe after the accident. In that case, a defendant is likely to argue that the plaintiff already had headaches, and there is no proof that their headaches worsened because of the accident. 

In cases like these, it is essential to gather medical records and testimony from doctors that explain that the accident was the cause of the increase in symptoms. The more evidence you have showing a link between the accident and the worsened injury, the more likely you will be to have a successful claim for damages. 

Contact Saeedian Law Group Today 

At Saeedian Law Group in Los Angeles, California, our experienced personal injury attorneys will help you understand how your pre-existing injury impacts your motor vehicle case. Reach out to us today for more information.