You were rear-ended by another driver recently, leaving you with a dislocated shoulder and terrible back pain. Now, as you file an insurance claim, that driver’s insurer asks you if you suffer from any pre-existing conditions.
You do—for years you have been suffering from disc degeneration problems. Although you cannot seek damages for an injury that existed before the collision, you can be compensated if this pre-existing injury was made even worse. In your case, it definitely has—you can barely sleep at night due to severe pain, and your calendar is already filling up with physical therapy appointments.
New York law holds that in a personal injury case, the driver who struck your vehicle must “take you as they find you.” You are what’s known as an “eggshell plaintiff,” which means that you are more vulnerable to serious injury. This fact does not, however, relieve the defendant of liability for your current injuries. You are still entitled to compensation, and if your case goes to trial, a New York jury must consider you as the defendant “found you” at the time of the accident.
Defendants often resist the idea of compensating someone who would likely not have been hurt (at least not as badly) if it weren’t for their pre-existing injury. The eggshell rule prevents a careless or negligent defendant from dodging liability by blaming you for your own suffering. If their conduct aggravates an existing condition or makes an old injury worse, then you are entitled to recover damages.
When you have a pre-existing condition, it’s important to be completely honest about the fact, especially if the recent injury affects the same area of your body. Some plaintiffs are hesitant about disclosing their medical past, especially if they think it would limit their financial recovery, but this is the worst possible way to protect your claim.
When an insurance adjuster is faced with a claimant who does not admit to having any prior injuries, they may greet the claim with skepticism, especially if you are over a certain age. Failure to disclose the existence of a medical condition or former injury can discredit your claim and jeopardize your chances of receiving a fair settlement.
When it comes to pursuing compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and future rehabilitation costs, it’s essential to have an experienced New York personal injury attorney on your side.
A good attorney is doubly important if you have an existing condition that can impact your case: they will refuse to let the insurance company evade responsibility and go all the way to trial if need be to ensure that you get the award you need to recover.
Jayson Lutzky is an experienced New York City attorney who handles accident and personal injury cases. You may be entitled to compensation for your injuries—for lost wages, medical bills and for pain and suffering. If you were involved in an accident, then be sure to be speak to a qualified attorney. Visit www.MyNewYorkCityLawyer.com to learn more.