The Ins and Outs of Pre-Existing Injury Compensation

When signing up a new case, a question often asked is whether the new client can recover funds for reinjuring a body part that had been previously injured. The simple answer to that question is yes, but it can get complicated depending on the extent and timing of the prior injury.

In most scenarios, a Plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit does not come to the lawsuit free of prior issues or injuries.  In fact, an older Plaintiff is significantly more likely to have had some sort of prior problem with their back or neck.  In Florida, a Plaintiff may seek a personal injury claim for an injury or aggravation to a body part that was previously injured.

A Plaintiff’s prior injury or pre-existing condition does not affect whether a Defendant caused a motor vehicle accident or was responsible for a dangerous condition on the floor of a supermarket.  That is known as liability and has been addressed in JB Law’s previous blogs.  The existence of a prior injury or pre-existing condition goes to the amount of damages that a Plaintiff has suffered from a negligent act of a Defendant.  Theoretically, a Defendant can cause a car accident or slip and fall but not be responsible for damages if a Plaintiff is not injured or does not suffer a new injury.  However, it is typically difficult to pinpoint the identical nature of an alleged new injury with a Plaintiff’s old injury.

In Florida, a Defendant is also responsible for an aggravation of a pre-existing injury because a Defendant takes a Plaintiff as they find the Plaintiff.  This is often referred to as the Eggshell Plaintiff Rule which is a legal theory that stands for the proposition that a Defendant’s liability will not be reduced merely because a Plaintiff is more susceptible to injuries (i.e. made of “eggshells”).  A Defendant can find themselves in an unlucky situation after a seemingly minor accident or incident.  It does not matter legally if a Plaintiff is in a small fender bender but is more susceptible to injuries than an average person.  According to Florida law, a Defendant cannot reduce his or her exposure because a Plaintiff’s body is more brittle than the average person.

We recently resolved a case where an older client with a history of back trouble was rear-ended in a relatively benign low impact auto accident.  The client had undergone a prior back surgery years before our accident which included the implantation of hardware into her back.  The client immediately felt pain in her back but it was not clear right away what was causing her pain.  The client’s treatment became a bit of an odyssey where the client spent months and months trying to figure out what was causing her this new pain.   This included numerous doctor visits, multiple diagnostic tests, a few injections and one surgery.  It turned out this small crash caused the client’s previously implanted hardware to become loose which caused significant pain to the client which ultimately led to the surgery.

Of course, the insurance company argued that the pain was not related to our accident and that they should not have to pay for any of her medical bills or pain and suffering.  This is because insurance companies typically do not do the right thing until they are forced to do so.  The insurance company through its lawyers continuously argued that a low impact accident like the one in this case could not have caused the harm sustained by our client and that she was going to need these procedures and surgeries with or without this accident.  As always, we believed in our client because she made a great presentation and we simply prepared our case for trial.  If the insurance company was not going to do the right thing, we were going to make them do the right thing by obtaining a large verdict at trial.

Finally, after significant litigation and only days before the trial, the insurance company paid the amount of money we were demanding. So, don’t think just because you have had prior injuries, you do not have a right to file a claim. We fight for your rights and make sure all parties are treated fairly.