We handle eggshells delicately because they are more susceptible to shattering if handled carelessly. The same concept applies to what the law calls an eggshell plaintiff. If the plaintiff has a pre-existing physical condition, such as disease or previous bodily injury, he or she could have an increased susceptibility to new injuries. Accidents can aggravate or worsen a pre-existing condition, and unfortunately, these aggravated conditions often make it challenging for personal injury attorneys to settle with insurance companies.
Insurance company adjusters often try to decrease the amount that they are willing to offer because of a pre-existing condition. An adjuster could argue that these pre-accident injuries were partially what caused the injuries suffered, in which case they will say that the negligent party either did not cause the injury or that they are not fully responsible for the pre-existing injury. Adjusters will also attempt to deny coverage for certain bills since the plaintiff was already treating for the previous injury.
It’s the plaintiff’s duty to prove the defendant’s negligent conduct caused the injury. The evidence provided must meet the preponderance of evidence standard, where more than half of evidence points to a negligent party. In order to meet this standard, personal injury attorneys will present testimonies from the plaintiff, medical experts, or friends and relatives who may have be familiar with the pre-existing condition. The attorney can also present medical records to supplement these testimonies and further drive home that the pre-existing injury had indeed worsened as a result of the incident.
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Case Study: Bienemann v. State Farm
If the courts find this evidence relative and factual, they will submit it on court record. They will also reject the adjuster’s arguments about pre-existing injury as well as the denial of the insurance claim. In Bienemann v. State Farm, the court ruled in Bienemann’s favor—Bienemann had previous injuries to his neck and back before his accident. Although he had these injuries, the courts found that the adjusters were not allowed to force a plaintiff to mitigate, or lessen, damages based on any previous conditions. The court also found that in personal injury cases, the defendant has to take the victim’s current condition as is and is responsible for all natural and probable consequences of his or her negligent conduct. Since the defendant’s conduct aggravated the plaintiff’s pre-accident injuries, then the defendant must be held liable and compensate the plaintiff for the full extent of the injuries, pre-existing or otherwise.
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If you or a loved one has a pre-existing condition, do not be discouraged from filing a claim against the negligent party or the insurance company. If you can prove that personal injury incident aggravated or worsened your pre-existing conditions, there is a good chance that you could recover damages. For questions or general information about this process, call the Morris Bart law offices today.