I Have a Pre-existing Medical Condition That Was Aggravated After My Accident, Can I Still Pursue a Claim in Virginia?
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Virginia follows the “eggshell skull” rule. Injured claimants can recover some damages if they have a pre-existing medical condition that was aggravated after an accident. This does not mean the claims process will be easy, though.
The liable insurer could still contest your claim and deny compensation. A personal injury lawyer from our firm can build your case and negotiate a settlement with the insurer. If this fails, we can take your case to civil court.
The “Eggshell Skull” Rule Could Make Another Party Liable for Your Damages
This legal concept is a descriptive term, meaning that you “take the plaintiff as you find him.” The issue is not whether the accident would have injured a healthy person, but whether the event hurt the plaintiff, per the Campbell Law Review.
Let’s say that someone has a rare genetic condition that caused him to have an extremely thin skull. In a low-speed fender-bender, this person suffered a skull fracture not expected of a healthy person.
The liable party would still have to pay for the injured claimant’s damages, regardless of whether they had a rare condition or not. The defendant cannot get out of liability by arguing that 99.9% of people would not have suffered a severe injury. The negligent party could still be responsible for the injured person’s losses.
What Happens if the Plaintiff is Unaware of the Medical Condition?
The plaintiff’s knowledge of the medical condition does not increase or decrease the amount of damages he can seek. Consider the following hypothetical scenarios:
The Plaintiff Knew About Their Condition
Plaintiff Smith knew that he had arthritis in his spine. He saw a rheumatologist and physical therapist in order to manage his disease and maintain as much function as possible.
In a collision, he sustained three fractured vertebrae. The defense argued that the same collision would not have hurt a healthy person. However, this doesn’t matter; Mr. Smith was injured in the crash due to negligence and was awarded compensation.
The Plaintiff did Not Know About Their Condition
Plaintiff Jones had occasional stiffness in his back but did not experience enough discomfort to seek medical attention. He was in a crash and suffered three fractured vertebrae. The MRI revealed pre-existing damage from a chronic degenerative condition, likely arthritis.
The pre-existing condition made Mr. Jones predisposed to severe spinal injuries, even from a low-impact collision. The fact that Jones did not know about the degenerative condition did not affect his legal options, and he “won” his case.
- Long story short: awareness of a pre-existing condition does not impact an injured claimant’s ability to seek damages.
There are Limits to the “Eggshell Skull” Rule
If your pre-existing condition was aggravated by an accident, you can pursue damages for the incident’s impact on your life. In other words, Smith or Jones can collect damages for the fractured vertebrae, but not for arthritis itself.
On a scale of one to 10, if your discomfort level before the accident was three, and your post-accident discomfort level raised to 10, you could seek damages for the seven levels your pain was increased by.
Let’s go back to our hypotheticals:
Plaintiff Smith Could Pursue Damages for the Accident’s Aftermath
Plaintiff Smith knew about his arthritis. He can document the level of his flexibility, strength, and range of motion from his rheumatologist’s records. If Smith was no longer able to walk without using a walker, his damages would be to the extent that the accident worsened his condition.
Plaintiff Jones’ Compensation Depends on Numerous Factors
Plaintiff Jones was blissfully unaware that he had a fragile spine. He was able to engage in ordinary activities without discomfort, other than occasional stiffness.
After the fractured vertebrae, his condition is similar to Smith’s, requiring a walker. Jones’ damages will relate to the difference between his pre-accident function and his post-accident function.
Those Without Pre-Existing Conditions Can Seek the Full Scope of Their Losses
Compare Smith and Jones to an injured person who did not have a pre-existing condition. If someone without a degenerative medical condition sustains three fractured vertebrae in an accident, he could seek the full measure of his damages without considering his pre-existing condition.
We will need to assess your situation before the accident and compare it to your situation now.
Handling Your Case on Your Own Could Work Against You
If you have a pre-existing medical condition that was aggravated after an accident, an insurer might make you a lowball offer. They might even deny your claim altogether.
When our personal injury team handles your case, the insurance company is less likely to play games.
That’s because our founder, Jim Parrish, used to represent insurance companies. He knows the tactics these organizations use to derail claims. Now, he protects the rights of injured people.
To promote your case’s outcome, we will:
- Negotiate a settlement
- Prove the severity of your condition with medical documents
- Investigate your situation
- Determine the at-fault and liable parties
- Manage your case’s paperwork
- Advise you on your options
- Calculate your damages
All of these services are performed at no out-of-pocket cost to you. We work on a contingency-fee basis. You don’t pay us unless we win.
Call the Parrish Law Firm, PLLC to Learn More
If the insurer takes an unreasonable position about your pre-existing condition, we can manage your case. Call the Parrish Law Firm, PLLC at (571) 229-1800 for a free consultation. Your time is limited under VA Code § 8.01.243, so prompt legal action is crucial.