Personal Injury Claims and Pre-Existing Conditions: Can You Still Seek Compensation in NJ?
When navigating the intricacies of a personal injury claim, one factor that often raises questions is the existence of a pre-existing condition. Many victims worry that a prior injury or ailment might diminish their chances of obtaining fair compensation. For New Jersey residents grappling with such concerns, understanding the law and its implications is crucial.
At Drazin & Warshaw, we’ve supported numerous clients through this precise challenge. Our commitment is to ensure that every victim gets a fair chance at justice, regardless of their health history. This post will delve into how pre-existing conditions affect personal injury claims in New Jersey and what you need to know to secure the compensation you rightfully deserve.
What Is a Pre-Existing Condition?
A pre-existing condition refers to any injury, illness, or physical/mental health condition that existed prior to the accident or incident that led to the personal injury claim. These conditions can vary widely and may include things like:
- Conditions like diabetes, hypertension, asthma, or heart disease that were present before the accident.
- Injuries sustained in the past, such as a previous broken bone, muscle sprain, or a surgical site from a prior operation.
- Conditions that naturally worsen over time, such as arthritis or degenerative disc disease in the spine.
Mental Health Conditions
- Pre-existing mental health conditions like depression, anxiety disorders, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Disabilities that were present before the accident, such as a mobility impairment or visual impairment.
The “Eggshell Plaintiff” Doctrine
The “Eggshell Plaintiff” doctrine is a legal principle recognized in personal injury law in New Jersey and many other jurisdictions. It essentially means that a defendant in a personal injury case must take the plaintiff as they find them, regardless of any pre-existing conditions or vulnerabilities.
This doctrine is often invoked in cases where a plaintiff has a pre-existing medical condition or susceptibility to injury, and it has been exacerbated or worsened by the defendant’s actions. Key points to understand about the “Eggshell Plaintiff” doctrine are :
Vulnerability is Considered
- Under this doctrine, the defendant cannot use the plaintiff’s pre-existing condition as a defense to liability. In other words, they cannot argue that a person without that condition would not have been injured in the same way. Instead, the defendant is responsible for the full extent of the harm caused, including any aggravation of the pre-existing condition.
- Defendants are held fully responsible for the injuries they cause, regardless of whether the plaintiff had a pre-existing medical condition or was more susceptible to injury due to their health history.
Compensation for Aggravation
- If the accident or incident exacerbates the plaintiff’s pre-existing condition, they are entitled to seek compensation for the additional harm or suffering caused by the worsening of their condition.
- Establishing the impact of the accident on the pre-existing condition often requires expert medical testimony. Medical professionals may provide evidence to explain how the accident aggravated or worsened the plaintiff’s condition.
Evidence and Documentation
- To build a strong case under the “Eggshell Plaintiff” doctrine, it’s crucial to gather comprehensive medical records, both before and after the accident, to demonstrate the link between the incident and the exacerbation of the pre-existing condition.
Challenges and Considerations
While the “Eggshell Plaintiff” doctrine sounds reassuring, there are nuances in play:
Proving the Aggravation
- It’s imperative to demonstrate that the accident aggravated the pre-existing condition. This often requires comprehensive medical documentation and potential testimony from medical experts.
Insurance Company Pushback
- Insurance companies may attempt to minimize their payout by asserting that the current injuries were merely a continuation of the old ones and not related to the recent accident.
Full Disclosure is Key
- It’s crucial to be transparent with your attorney about any pre-existing conditions. Hiding or omitting such information can harm the credibility of your claim.
Building a Strong Case
Building a strong case in a personal injury claim, especially when pre-existing conditions are involved, is crucial to increase your chances of obtaining fair compensation in New Jersey or any other jurisdiction.
Here are key steps to consider when constructing a robust case:
Consult an Experienced Attorney
- Start by consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney in New Jersey who specializes in cases involving pre-existing conditions. They can provide valuable guidance and assess the strength of your case.
Collect Comprehensive Evidence
- Gather all relevant evidence related to the accident, including photographs, videos, accident reports, and witness statements. This evidence should help establish the facts surrounding the incident.
- Obtain all medical records and documentation related to your pre-existing condition, as well as any treatment you received before and after the accident. This includes doctor’s notes, test results, and treatment plans.
Expert Medical Testimony
- Engage medical experts who can provide professional opinions regarding the impact of the accident on your pre-existing condition. Expert testimony can be instrumental in demonstrating causation and the extent of your injuries.
- Clearly establish a causal link between the accident and the exacerbation or worsening of your pre-existing condition. This may involve medical experts testifying that the accident directly contributed to your injuries or condition.
Document Pain and Suffering
- Keep a detailed record of your pain, suffering, and any limitations you’ve experienced as a result of the accident. This can include physical pain, emotional distress, and the impact on your daily life.
Lost Wages and Economic Damages
- If your pre-existing condition or new injuries have caused you to miss work or incur additional expenses, document these financial losses carefully. This includes lost wages, medical bills, and rehabilitation costs.
- Be completely transparent with your attorney about your pre-existing condition. Hiding or omitting this information can damage your credibility and harm your case.
Negotiation and Settlement
- Your attorney may negotiate with the responsible party’s insurance company for a fair settlement. They will use the evidence and expert opinions to support your claim during negotiations.
Prepare for Trial
- If a fair settlement cannot be reached, your attorney will prepare for trial. This involves presenting your case, including expert testimony, to a judge and jury.
Legal Strategy and Advocacy
- Your attorney will develop a strategic legal approach tailored to your specific case, considering the unique circumstances of your pre-existing condition and the accident.
Stay Informed and Involved
- Stay actively involved in your case by maintaining open communication with your attorney. Ask questions, provide updates on your condition, and participate in the decision-making process.
Compensation in Light of Pre-existing Conditions
In New Jersey, victims can seek compensation for various damages, including:
- Including costs related to the exacerbation of the pre-existing condition.
- If the aggravated condition led to an inability to work.
Pain and suffering
- Especially if the accident led to increased pain or complications related to the prior condition.
Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer at Drazin & Warshaw for a Free Consultation About Your Case Today
Personal injury claims coupled with pre-existing conditions may seem daunting, but with the right knowledge and legal support, victims can still pursue the compensation they deserve. Remember, an existing condition doesn’t negate another’s negligence.
At Drazin & Warshaw, we believe in fighting for the rights of every victim, irrespective of their past ailments or injuries. Our extensive experience in handling complex personal injury cases in New Jersey means we’re well-equipped to guide you through every twist and turn of your claim. If you or a loved one is in a similar situation, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re here to help you navigate these challenging waters and seek the justice you rightly deserve.