There are countless factors that can impact how a personal injury case unfolds. At the end of the day, the outcome of your case—and whether it is settled without proceeding to litigation—will likely hinge on the strength of the evidence available to prove liability, causation, and damages.
In this article, we will focus on “causation.” To prove causation, it must be shown that the damages you are claiming would not have accrued but for the tort. In other words, your attorney will have to prove that your medical bills and other losses would not have been incurred if the tort had not happened.
There are many reasons why a dispute might arise regarding causation. For instance, if you deviate from your doctor’s orders by participating in a strenuous activity, the insurance company might assert that at least a portion of your losses were caused by your failure to mitigate damages—i.e. your failure to take reasonable steps to facilitate your medical recovery.
Another scenario when a causation dispute might arise is when a plaintiff had a preexisting injury or illness. If, for example, you had a back injury and you are involved in a car accident, and you then try to claim compensation for medical bills related to a back injury, the insurance company might argue that those bills would have accrued even if the accident had not happened. Your attorney may try to overcome this defense by arguing that your condition was exacerbated by the accident and using medical records and expert witness deposition as evidence.
But what if your preexisting condition was asymptomatic? Can the insurance company still argue that the damages you are claiming were caused by that condition? What can your lawyer do to possibly prevent or overcome this defense? These questions will be the focus of this blog.
How an Asymptomatic Preexisting Condition Could Impact Your Case
In the 1997 California case Ng v. Hudson, the court ruled that a personal injury plaintiff can recover compensation for injuries “to the full extent that his condition has worsened” as a result of the tort. In other words, an accident victim can obtain compensation for medical bills and other losses caused by the exacerbation of an asymptomatic preexisting condition, but cannot obtain compensation for damages that would have been incurred even if the accident had not happened.
It is of course true that the discovery of an asymptomatic preexisting condition can complicate a personal injury case. To obtain fair compensation, your lawyer will have to establish the degree to which the accident worsened the preexisting condition.
What If My Condition Made Me More Susceptible to Injury?
Sometimes a person has a medical condition that makes them more susceptible to being harmed in an accident that might not have injured someone who was entirely healthy. For instance, a person with osteoporosis might be more vulnerable to bone breaks and fractures in the event of a car accident or slip and fall.
If this applies to you, it may be possible to obtain compensation for 100 percent of your damages without any reduction in your recovery due to the preexisting condition. As outlined in California Civil Jury Instructions 3923, juries must determine the amount of money that would reasonably compensate the plaintiff for all damages caused by the tort even if the plaintiff had a higher susceptibility to injury than a person who was 100 percent healthy, and even if a normally healthy individual would not have sustained a similar injury.
Common Asymptomatic Preexisting Conditions
There are all sorts of asymptomatic medical conditions that could impact a personal injury case. Some of the most common examples include:
- Cervical degenerative disc disease,
- Degenerative disc disease,
- Cervical osteoarthritis, and
- Lumbar spinal stenosis.
Importance of Hiring an Attorney If You Had a Preexisting Condition
Insurance adjusters are well aware that the mere existence of a preexisting condition does not preclude a claimant from obtaining compensation; however, insurers sometimes try to assert meritless arguments in the hopes that the claimant will accept a lower settlement than they actually deserve.
If you have suffered a personal injury and the insurance company is trying to reduce your recovery due to an asymptomatic preexisting condition, you should contact an attorney right away. If you haven’t yet spoken to the adjuster but you suspect that such a dispute might arise, you should consult a lawyer and let him or her handle all correspondence with the insurance company.
Insurance adjusters often ask questions that are intended to elicit statements that can be used to dispute the claim. A seasoned personal injury lawyer will know how to manage dialogue with the adjuster in such a way that minimizes the likelihood of a dispute arising related to your preexisting injury or illness.
Your lawyer can also compile the necessary evidence to mitigate or overcome such a dispute. If your case proceeds to discovery, your lawyer might depose your treating physician and other medical experts to demonstrate the degree to which the accident worsened your preexisting condition, and to prove the value of the resulting damages.
Call (562) 206-1939 to Speak with a Personal Injury Lawyer in Long Beach
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
If you were seriously injured through the fault of another person, attorney Michael D. Waks can protect your rights and help you fight for the highest recovery possible. Michael has extensive experience in claims involving preexisting conditions. He is well-versed in the case law and statutes pertaining to these claims, and he can make sure you are treated fairly.
Our law firm offers free consultations and accepts personal injury and wrongful death cases on a contingency fee basis. That means no attorneys’ fees will be owed unless we win your case through a settlement or trial verdict.
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