If you have been hurt in a car accident, and it wasn’t your first accident, you are probably wondering how your car accident history might affect your claim.
In most cases, your car accident history will become a focal point of the case. This is true even if the other driver was 100% at fault.
Insurance Only Pays For Injuries Caused By The Car Accident
Whenever a driver hurts someone, the victim’s health becomes a primary issue. Physical and psychological injuries provide the basis for most insurance payouts. Insurance companies want to avoid or minimize these payments.
Pre-existing injuries or health conditions are an important aspect of a victim’s health. The cause of those injuries or conditions is equally important. If the insurance company finds that a victim has a car accident history and a prior accident caused damages, the claims adjuster will do everything in his/her power to attribute your present complaints to previous accidents and injuries..
The adjusters position will be that the most recent accident did not cause the injuries. Instead, an earlier crash caused them. Therefore, a critical element of a negligence case is missing: causation.
Elements of a car accident claim
To understand how a claims adjuster could deny a claim based on the victim’s car accident history, it helps to know when an accident victim can recover for injuries. An injured person has a valid accident claim when the following four elements exist. To prevail on a car accident claim, a victim must show:
- Duty: The driver had a responsibility to operate the automobile safely and legally.
- Breach: The driver violated this responsibility and drove negligently or recklessly.
- Injury: The victim’s property was damaged, and/or the victim was hurt emotionally, physically, or both.
- Causation: The driver’s negligence caused the victim’s injuries.
If any one of these elements is not present, the claim will fail.
How Car Accident Victims Can Address Their Car Accident History
People injured in an auto collision should consult with an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible. Victims with a car accident history can particularly benefit from the knowledge of a seasoned attorney. Having advocated for car accident victims for more than 30 years, I use four strategies to address car accident histories.
1. Be completely honest about a victim’s car accident history
- tell their lawyers about previous injuries from car accidents and other incidents.
- share information about prior health conditions and treatment with their lawyers.
- work with their lawyers to honestly respond to insurance company questions about health and car accident history.
- Review medical records with their legal team.
2. Prove that the most recent car accident aggravated my client’s existing condition
California courts take the approach that if one person (defendant) causes another person’s injuries, the defendant can’t escape responsibility by blaming the victim’s pre-existing conditions for the victim’s injuries.
If the victim can prove that the defendant made the victim’s prior injuries or condition worse, then the defendant is responsible for paying for any harm (pain or injury) beyond what the victim was experiencing before the accident. California Civil Jury Instruction 3927 explains the concept of aggravating prior conditions:
[Name of plaintiff] is not entitled to damages for any physical or emotional condition that [he/she] had before [name of defendant]’s conduct occurred. However, if [name of plaintiff] had a physical or emotional condition that was made worse by [name of defendant]’s wrongful conduct, you must award damages that will reasonably and fairly compensate [him/her] for the effect on that condition.
I use this theory to show that the accident made my client’s health worse. Medical experts demonstrate the difference between my client’s health before and after the accident. Family and friends who know the victim well are often excellent witnesses to establish “before and after” complaints attributed to the victim. The defendant is obligated to pay for the decline he caused through the car crash.
3. Prove that my client’s car accident history makes them more susceptible to injury
The public policy approach that holds defendants responsible for making pre-existing conditions worse also makes them liable for all injuries they cause. This is true even when the injuries are unexpectedly more severe than would typically be expected because the victim is more susceptible to harm than the average person.
This concept is often referred to as the “eggshell plaintiff”. The name comes from the example of a hypothetical victim whose skull is as thin as an eggshell. A typical car crash might cause bumps on a person’s head or a minor concussion. For an eggshell plaintiff, however, the same force could cause major traumatic brain injury, a skull fracture or significant bleeding on the brain. The person who caused the crash must pay for all the medical costs of the eggshell plaintiff even though a different victim’s injuries would have been minor with the same impact and forces. It is just the driver’s bad luck to have hit someone with an eggshell-thin skull or other body parts.
California Civil Jury Instruction 3928 explains the concept of the eggshell plaintiff:
You must decide the full amount of money that will reasonably and fairly compensate [name of plaintiff] for all damages caused by the wrongful conduct of [name of defendant], even if [name of plaintiff] was more susceptible to injury than a normally healthy person would have been, and even if a normally healthy person would not have suffered similar injury.
I use this theory to show that my client’s car accident history makes them an eggshell plaintiff. Therefore, the defendant must pay for all medical care resulting from the accident.
4. Use medical records and medical experts to prove the recent car accident caused the injuries
I work with a strong network of expert witnesses who can help prove clients’ accident damages. Some evidence and strategies we use include:
- Introduce medical records, including doctors’ chart notes, indicating that current injuries are new and a direct result of the crash. Alternatively, show that the car accident exacerbated prior injuries.
- Whenever possible, only provide medical records directly relevant to the body parts injured in the most recent auto accident.
- If possible, limit the number of years covered by medical records shared with insurance companies (for example, only a few years back, not the client’s entire life).
- As required, reveal all prior injuries, health conditions, surgeries, and car accident history.
- Utilize jury instructions for aggravated injury and eggshell plaintiff when appropriate.
Contact A Long Beach Car Accident Attorney For Help
Your Injuries Are Personal To Me
Injuries suffered in earlier car crashes should not prevent car accident victims from receiving fair compensation from later collisions. As a Long Beach car accident attorney, I have represented accident victims for more than 30 years. During that time, I have helped many clients with car accident histories prove their accident damages. My goal is to ensure you receive maximum compensation, regardless of injuries or conditions you had before the accident.
Because your injuries are personal to me, I handle all aspects of your case. I will fight for your right to receive the maximum amount to which you are entitled.
Call the Law Office of Michael D. Waks today at 888-394-1174. You can also schedule a no-cost, no-obligation auto accident attorney consultation through my convenient online contact form.
You will be under no obligation, and you will never pay any money unless you recover compensation for your losses.
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