Auto accidents never come at a good time, but unfortunately, sometimes they happen at the worst imaginable times. Imagine undergoing an extensive back surgery after falling off a horse and fracturing your back, only to be negligently struck by a careless driver a month post-surgery which causes the previously experienced pain to quickly return to your back. This type of situation, although not very common, does occur, and it causes the injured party to ponder a multitude of questions about how these pre-existing injuries will come into play regarding their auto accident claim.
What qualifies as a pre-existing injury?
In the legal field and in relation to auto accidents, a “pre-existing injury” is an injury or medical condition that existed prior to the person being involved in the auto accident. Regarding your auto claim, the pre-existing injuries that are the most significant are the ones that are worsened by or reactivated by the auto accident.
Some examples of pre-existing injuries include:
- Injuries sustained in a prior auto accident, a past slip and fall, or another harmful incident
- Congenital abnormalities, such as birth defects ex: spina bifida, heart defects, brain injuries, clubfoot
- Injuries that didn’t heal properly or are currently healing (especially common for joint, spine, and neck injuries)
- Medical conditions that come about due to stress, such as asthma, PTSD, seizures, etc.
How do pre-existing injuries affect auto accident claims in Florida?
Florida abides by the “eggshell plaintiff doctrine”, which means that the individual(s) responsible for an auto accident are completely liable for all of the injuries that the injured party sustains, meaning that it doesn’t matter if the victim was in perfect health before the crash or had pre-existing injuries at the time of the crash. This doctrine holds that by law, the injured, innocent party involved in the crash must be accepted in the condition they were in at the time of the crash, even if they had what is commonly referred to by attorneys as an “eggshell skull”. Of note is that this doctrine applies to any and all injuries sustained (including mental injuries, such as PTSD), not just injuries to the skull.
The theory behind this principle explains that the innocent, injured party’s skull might be as fragile as an eggshell (either from pre-existing injuries, age, or genetics), thus, the smallest contact from a crash may cause severe injuries. If this is the case, all that should come into play during settlement negotiations according to the eggshell doctrine is the fact that the injuries were severe, regardless of the fact that the injuries were sustained due to such a slight amount of contact. Under the eggshell doctrine, in cases involving pre-existing injuries that have been aggravated or exacerbated by an auto accident, the victim would be due compensation for the injuries if two things were in place:
- the victim’s pre-existing condition was stable and under control;
- prior to the crash, there was no reason to believe that the victim’s condition was going to worsen.
For example, if your grandmother is rear-ended in a very low-speed crash and her left hand is forcefully crushed between her chest and steering wheel as a result of the crash, but she has severe pre-existing arthritis in her left hand, the eggshell doctrine holds that if she requires immediate surgery on her left hand, that the negligent, at fault-party’s insurance company would be 100% responsible for this left hand surgery.
At The Eberst Law Firm we are prepared to fight for you and research every single law that will come into play during your claim while using these laws to work for the highest possible settlement for your case. We understand that pre-existing injuries can be a part of life, and we know that you don’t deserve to be unjustly denied a fair, full settlement because of an injury you sustained in the past that was otherwise not bothering you up until you were injured in an auto accident.
Should I disclose my pre-existing injuries to the auto insurance company?
Although it may seem counterintuitive to disclose your pre-existing injury to the insurance company, if done so with the help of an experienced attorney, it can help your case by adding credibility to your claim. It is very important to only disclose any pre-existing injuries to the insurance company with the assistance of a personal injury attorney, as insurance companies utilize many tricks in order to try and weaken or hurt your claim. One of the most common defense tactics used by insurance companies is to discredit your claim by insisting that your injuries are only pre-existing, which often leads to the insurance company failing to make an offer or making a minimal offer on your claim.
For more information regarding other deceiving tricks and tactics that insurance adjusters use, please read our article titled, “Insurance Adjuster Tricks That Devalue Your Car Accident Claim”.
Hire an Experienced Florida Attorney for your Auto Accident
The Eberst Law Firm works diligently and closely with clients every day, and we know exactly how to handle communicating with the insurance company regarding pre-existing injuries in order to accurately and fairly relay information while protecting the integrity of our clients’ cases. We are prepared for the tactics that the insurance adjusters use, and we will use our own strategies and experience to ensure that your case will never be jeopardized by an overly inquisitive insurance company.
Contact The Eberst Law Firm today by calling 772-225-4900 or by filling out our online form to discuss your case. You can rest assured that we will give you our full attention, fight for you passionately, and ultimately, resolve your case for the highest possible settlement amount.
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