If you’ve been injured in a car crash, your recovery should be of the utmost importance to you. You probably won’t think what role a prior injury or condition could have on your health, and also any compensation you may receive due to a car crash. However, it is important to note that a pre-existing condition could affect your claim though maybe not in the way you think. You need to inform not only your treating physician about prior injuries or medical conditions, but your attorney as well. The defendant’s insurance company is going to want to know about these conditions, and you don’t want to hide facts from them; you need to disclose this information. Remember, your credibility is crucial to your case.
Apportionment and Pre-Existing Conditions
In Colorado, if a plaintiff in a lawsuit had a pre-existing condition prior to an incident like a car crash, and that condition was aggravated because of the defendant’s tortious or negligent conduct, then the defendant can be liable for the plaintiff’s entire damages. However, there is the possibility of apportionment. This means that if a jury can allocate the amount of damages between the pre-existing condition and the damages caused by the defendant, then the defendant would not be liable for the entire damages. This can be very tricky though, and more so, if the evidence presented does not support apportionment. Then the defendant is going to be liable for the entirety of damages. Thus, the question really comes down to whether the jury can conclude that the pre-existing condition is separate and distinct from the injury that arose from the auto accident, in which case apportionment may be appropriate.
“Thin Skull” Rule and Jury Instructions
Additionally, we use the “thin skull” instruction in court, which holds that a plaintiff need not prove the existence of a pre-existing bodily condition before the jury instruction can be given. “Thin skull” is a term that refers to a tort doctrine in which the frailty of an injured person is not a defense in the case. In other words, just because the plaintiff may have had a pre-existing injury, that doesn’t mean his susceptibility to injury, is a defense. Therefore, if a defendant focuses on the plaintiff’s pre-existing injuries or conditions at trial, it would be crucial to use this jury instruction. Furthermore, if there is evidence presented regarding the plaintiff’s condition after the accident and that somehow the pre-existing condition caused or aggravated plaintiff’s current condition, then the instruction should be given.
The jury instruction in relation to the rule may read like this:
In determining the amount of plaintiff’s actual damages, you cannot reduce the amount of or refuse to award any such damages because of any (insert appropriate description, e.g., physical frailties, mental condition, illness, etc.) of the plaintiff that may have made (him/her) more susceptible to injury, disability, or impairment than an average or normal person.
What Should You Do?
Remember, it is imperative that you disclose any previous medical conditions affecting your case, but don’t worry about that condition harming your case. Your credibility is extremely important. To ensure that you are getting the maximum possible compensation for your injuries and aggravation of medical conditions, contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
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