Yes, you may seek compensation for damages resulting from a truck accident if you can prove that it aggravated a pre-existing medical condition or injured you in a way that is unrelated to your pre-existing injuries. In such a case, you deserve to be “made whole” or restored to the degree of health that you were in before the accident.
You may file insurance claims against one or more defendants responsible for your truck crash injuries, but the insurer(s) involved will make every effort to disprove your claim and blame your pre-existing medical problems for your current health issues. The services of an experienced lawyer are generally required to address the complications that arise when there’s a pre-existing injury or condition in a truck accident case.
Examples of Pre-Existing Injuries and Medical Conditions
Pre-existing injuries and medical conditions that could be worsened in a truck crash or make you more vulnerable to other injuries include:
- Muscle strains
- Joint sprains
- Concussions and traumatic brain injuries
- Herniated discs
- Spinal cord damage
- Neck injuries
- Previously fractured bones
- Degenerative disc disease
- Cardiovascular disease
The “Skull” Rules
There are two metaphorical rules that summarize the law on accidents that injure victims with pre-existing injuries or medical conditions.
The Eggshell Skull Rule
This rule says that even if your skull were as thin as an eggshell and could be severely damaged by a minor impact that would not hurt a person with a normal skull, you’re still entitled to recover compensation from the damage you suffered in the accident. The person who hit you cannot raise the thinness of your skull as a defense.
The Crumbling Skull Rule
If, at the time of your accident, you had a degenerative condition that would have gotten worse over time, regardless of your new injury, you’re still entitled to compensation for any worsening of your condition that resulted directly from your truck accident. Obtaining compensation in such circumstances, however, will be tricky.
The insurer’s lawyers will do their best to minimize the at-fault trucker’s liability and insist that you’re no worse off after the crash than you were before. You can work to level the playing field by having an experienced lawyer in your corner to organize and present your medical evidence convincingly.
What to Do If You Have a Pre-Existing Condition at the Time of a Truck Crash
Anyone who’s involved in a truck accident and physically able to gather evidence at the scene should take photos, exchange contact information with the other driver, call 911 to make a police report, and get names and numbers of witnesses. If you’re not transported to a hospital, however, seeking medical care as soon as possible after the wreck is your first priority.
Seeing a doctor right away is especially important if you have a pre-existing injury or condition. A physician’s exam and diagnostic testing can reveal and document your current injuries as well as their impact on any pre-existing issues that you have, so you should inform your doctor of your pre-existing issues at the outset of your exam. Don’t keep any secrets; if you do, they could come back to haunt you.
Why You Should Consult a Lawyer as Soon as Possible
An experienced truck accident attorney can help you to navigate the complex process of recovering damages if you have a pre-existing injury or condition. You should not sign a medical release or give any statement to anyone from the defendant’s insurance company. Let your lawyer handle all communications with the insurer involved in your claim. Your attorney can also help you by:
- Investigating your accident to prove the liability of all defendants
- Determining the percentage of liability borne by the trucker, the trucking company, a manufacturer, loading dock personnel, or a mechanic or repair service
- Consulting with your doctors to collect and present convincing medical evidence that your health has been damaged by your accident despite your pre-existing issues
- Calling in expert medical witnesses to support your claim and explain what your future medical needs will be if necessary
- Evaluating your claim for all medical bills, property damage, lost income, and pain and suffering, which can be quite difficult to establish when a pre-existing injury or condition exists
- Demanding fair compensation from all liable parties
- Filing lawsuits and taking your case to court if reasonable settlements are not offered
Once your truck crash case is closed, you can never ask for more money. It’s very important to have your claim correctly evaluated so that you don’t end up with future medical bills that you have to pay on your own.