Can a Prior Injury Affect My Car Accident Lawsuit Outcome in NY?
Car accidents are scary and traumatic experiences that can result in serious injuries. Often, these injuries can rack up hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical expenses, both for immediate treatment and long-term care. Because of the cost of medical treatment and countless other reasons, victims of car accidents often go to court in order to bring those who wronged them to justice.
One of the concerns that frequently comes up when people file car accident lawsuits is whether any previous injuries they have incurred will affect the outcome of their lawsuit. Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut answer to this question. The defense will most certainly try and use any prior injuries to try and lower their level of liability or the damages they have to pay. However, prior injuries are far from a deal breaker when pursuing a car accident claim in court.
For a free analysis of your situation, call our New York car accident lawyers from The Carrion Law Firm at (718) 841-0083.
What Constitutes a Pre-Existing Injury?
A pre-existing injury, sometimes called a pre-existing condition, is something that affects you and that you are dealing with prior to a car accident or other injury. Prior injuries and conditions can take many different forms, ranging from a bone you broke years ago to a recent injury that is in the process of healing when an accident happens to you.
Pre-existing injuries most often come up in car accident lawsuits when the defense tries to argue that they did not hurt the plaintiff as much as the plaintiff claims because the injury was already there. However, there are other ways that prior injuries can come up in car accident claims, and they are not all detrimental to your case. In fact, our Albany, NY car accident lawyers may be able to use a prior injury to help you make a stronger claim under the right circumstances.
The Effects of Prior Injuries/Conditions on New York Car Accident Lawsuits
The reality is that a pre-existing injury or condition can have a significant effect on how your car accident lawsuit plays out. It is simply another piece of information that either side of the lawsuit can, and should, use to try and further their case. While the fact that you were injured previously can be weaponized against you by opposing counsel, it can also be used to help your case. Knowing the details of how a prior injury interacts with a car accident lawsuit can help to take some of the fear and apprehension away from the proceedings.
The Eggshell Skull Rule
If a car accident makes an injury you already had worse, the fact that you had a previous injury can actually increase what the defense will need to pay in damages, primarily out of necessity. There is an idea in law called the “eggshell skull rule.” Essentially, this means that the defendant takes the plaintiff as they find them and is responsible for any injuries they cause. The name comes from a made-up situation where the defendant hits the plaintiff in the head, but their skull is like an eggshell. Predictably, the plaintiff will get seriously injured in such a situation. In the eyes of the law, it does not matter that the defendant was unaware that the plaintiff had an eggshell skull; they are still responsible for their conduct.
Making a Prior Injury Worse
The same goes for any pre-existing injuries that are made worse by a car accident the defendant causes. If, for example, you broke a bone in the past and that area of your body is more prone to getting injured, and then the defendant hits you with their car and causes an injury to that area, they will be held responsible for your injuries.
Another way that a defendant could be held responsible for this kind of injury is by making a pre-existing injury worse. For example, suppose you have a minor muscle tear in your leg that you are getting treated with physical therapy. The next time you get in your car to go to work, the defendant crashes into your vehicle, and you go to the hospital, where now the ligaments in your leg are totally torn and will require surgery to get you back to normal. In this hypothetical scenario, the plaintiff can claim damages for the increased severity of their leg injury but not for the prior injury.
It is in that distinction where much of the fighting will happen. Canny defense lawyers will try and argue that the negligence of their client did not make your injury much worse at all, thus lowering the damages their client will have to pay.
Considerations for Your Car Accident Case if You Have a Prior Injury
The other side of this coin is that you will need to prove that your prior injury would have healed on its own or stayed in the same condition were you not in a car accident
An important consideration for prior injuries is how serious they were before the accident. For example, if you have a torn ACL before a car accident, and the tear is only slightly worse because of the car accident, your damages may be quite limited.
Speak to Our New York Car Accident Lawyers
Our Buffalo, NY car accident lawyers from The Carrion Law Firm can be reached at (718) 841-0083 to go over your case.