Traffic Accident Lawsuits and Pre-Existing Injuries

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What are Traffic Accident Lawsuits?

Traffic accident lawsuits are usually filed in order to recover damages for injuries and losses caused by a car accident. The term “traffic accident” is a broad term that can apply to accidents occurring on any roadway, including highways, side streets, residential areas, and parking lots. 

They can also involve many types of vehicles, including passenger automobiles, large trucks, motorcycles, and even bicycles and pedestrians. Most traffic accident lawsuits are based on a negligence theory, and some claims can also involve overlaps with criminal law (such as misdemeanor or felony DUI charges).

What is a “Pre-Existing Injury”?

A pre-existing injury, or pre-existing medical condition is any injury or condition that was present before the traffic accident occurred. In many cases, the victim in a traffic accident lawsuit may have had old injuries that were “aggravated” or made worse by the recent traffic accident incident. 

In such cases, it then becomes difficult to determine the defendant’s liability, if any, for the victim’s injuries. The reasoning here is that it would be unfair to hold the defendant liable for injuries that they did not actually cause through their negligence or recklessness.

How Does a Pre-Existing Injury Affect the Outcome of a Traffic Accident Lawsuit?

In some lawsuits, pre-existing injury can sometimes change the amount that a plaintiff can recover for injuries in a traffic accident. Sometimes, the damages award may be reduced if it’s later found that an injury was actually a re-injury of prior existing injury.

For example, suppose that the plaintiff had a neck injury from before the accident. If they then received a whiplash injury from a car accident, it can be difficult to tell whether the new neck injury would have been less severe if not for the prior neck injury. If it’s found that the whiplash simply aggravated the older condition, it may reduce the amount of damages that the plaintiff can claim.

For these types of analyses, an expert medical witness may be needed. Expert medical testimony can calculate the percentage that the defendant may be liable for. It may be necessary to analyze factors such as the difference in time between the previous injury and the current one.  In some cases this can be a very complex determination and may also require the assistance of a lawyer or other professionals.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With a Traffic Accident Lawsuit?

Traffic accident lawsuits can present some very unique challenges, especially if there are any pre-existing injuries involved.  It’s in your best interest to hire a qualified injury attorney if you need help filing a lawsuit. Your lawyer can work closely with you to determine which legal remedies may be best in your situation. Your attorney can also represent you in court during the proceedings. 

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Last Modified: 08-21-2013 12:37 PM PDT

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