A car accident or any another other type of accident can cause new injuries or they can aggravate old ones. We find in many cases our clients are quick to minimize their injuries if they had an issue with that body part before. Don't! It is well established under Louisiana law that a tortfeasor takes his victim as he finds them and, in many cases, a precondition can be seriously aggravated in an accident even if you were having pain with it before.
What is the Eggshell Skull Rule?
The Eggshell skull rule is a Louisiana law that holds a defendant liable for a victim's injuries even if the condition of the victim made him or her more likely to be injured. This means that the injured state, frailty, weakness, or elderly state of a victim cannot be used as a defense to avoid paying for injuries. So, if you get involved in an accident with someone who already has a back injury and you make that injury worse, you cannot use as a defense that a normal healthy person would not have been injured.
Louisiana law specifically allows for a defendant or tortfeasor to have to pay damages for the aggravation of any preexisting injuries. For example, even if you have a bad knee and you are able to manage it ok, but after an accident, the accident causes increased pain and you have to have a knee surgery, the person who hit you will have to pay for your surgery and other damages relating to your knee condition being aggravated.
What Preexisting Conditions Can be Aggravated by a Car Accident?
Any condition you are suffering with may be aggravated by a car accident if your medical professional thinks so. The most common conditions we see are as follows:
Back Conditions. Many people suffer from degenerative disc disease, arthritis, disc herniations or facet arthropathy in their spine. Some of these conditions are asymptomatic, and not causing any pain, and others could be causing some pain, but that pain is manageable. A car accident or other trauma can cause those asymptomatic conditions to become symptomatic - such as a disc herniation that was not causing pain can be aggravated to the point where it is painful. Alternatively, conditions that were previously painful, such as arthritis or degenerative disc disease that caused minor discomfort throughout the day, can become incredibly painful necessitating medicinal, medical, or even surgical intervention.
Knee Conditions. We see all of the time people that have knee problems, either due to aging or to prior traumas, that are manageable. A car accident or other trauma can cause those issues to flare up, and we have seen our clients needing knee replacements or surgery as a result of that increase in pain.
Psychological Conditions. An accident can be a very traumatic experience. To some people, it is incredibly psychologically traumatic and can cause depression, PTSD, and more. People who already have diagnosed psychological conditions are even more at risk for an accident to aggravate or worsen those conditions than people who have no mental health history at all.
Do not assume an accident did not affect your prior conditions. This is a medical determination, not a lay one. The most important thing to do is to be open and honest with your doctors about your entire medical history and landscape, your pain ratings prior to and following an accident, as well as your activities.
Do you have questions about whether you can make a claim following an accident if your preexisting condition is worsened from the accident?
Give us a call for a free consultation. Our attorneys are very experienced handling cases where our clients suffer from preexisting conditions. In fact, one of our partners, Megan Kiefer has lectured other attorneys on this issue.