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Often times in personal injury cases, a plaintiff may face opposition from a defendant's insurance company based on a preexisting injury. Although a plaintiff is unable to collect damages for a condition existing prior to an incident causing an injury, that plaintiff may obtain damages for physical or mental conditions exacerbated by the incident. Accordingly, these claimants should carefully consider how they handle their preexisting injuries. 

You Should Disclose Prior Injuries

At the outset, personal injury attorneys must advise clients as to the importance of disclosing previous injuries, regardless of their dissimilarity to recent injuries sustained during a car accident, construction accident, slip and fall, or other incident. A failure to disclose, especially injuries affecting same part of the client's body, can affect a credibility, as well as the merit of a claim.

Further, a claimant minimizing effects of a serious previous injury may result in a jury questioning the legitimacy of his or her current injuries. Also, the jury may find the current accident at issue as the source of injury, not adequately considering that a plaintiff had not needed previous treatment or complained about the injury for years leading up to the accident.

Defendants Take Plaintiffs as They Find Them

A plaintiff may be in a weakened condition due to a preexisting injury, rendering him or her more prone to injury and causing an aggravated condition. It is a well known concept that a defendant takes a plaintiff as (s)he finds them, in the specific (subjective) condition existing at the time of the accident. Commonly known as the "egg-shell" plaintiff theory, this is particularly effective in a low-impact auto accident cases in which the jury may doubt that the collision caused the alleged injury. The specific state's jury instructions provide the law on awarding damages for aggravated previous injuries.

Attorneys Compare Medical Records

Another advantage to having a preexisting injury for an injury attorney is the option to compare past medical records and diagnostic tests with current medical information, in order to objectively verify specifically how the accident worsened a plaintiff's preexisting condition. Reviewing MRIs or X-rays or MRIs taken years apart, enables a medical expert to testify about how an accident may have worsened a plaintiff's condition. The witness may also call upon clinical records in order to compare a plaintiff's degree of pain, required care, or even disability existing before and after the accident. Specifically, if a plaintiff is permanently disabled, partly due to a prior injury, the witness is able to specify the extent of the disability that was affected or worsened by the subject accident. This testimony would aid in damage calculations, specifying medical costs attributable to defendant's conduct.

Through full disclosure of preexisting injuries in personal injury claims, and arguing that a plaintiff's condition was weakened by those injuries and rendered more susceptible to further injury, personal injury attorneys can effectively use the prior injuries to benefit their clients. The result is often the client successfully obtaining the damages to which (s)he is entitled.

Call for a Free Consultation with a Morris County NJ Personal Injury Attorney

If you or someone you love has been injured in an accident, with or without a preexisting condition, in New Jersey, contact the Morris County law offices of Smith & Doran for a cost-free consultation. Our highly skilled personal injury attorneys can answer all of your questions and outline your available legal options.

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Smith & Gaynor, LLC
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Morristown, NJ 07960

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