Following a car accident in Houston, you could be entitled to compensation if someone else is at least partly responsible for your injuries. Damages are typically awarded to compensate for the financial costs and emotional distress that you experience.
Keep in mind that insurance companies will go to great lengths to minimize the amount of money you receive. One popular tactic involves identifying a crash victim’s pre-existing medical condition and using that as grounds to deny or devalue a claim for benefits.
However, you shouldn’t be penalized because you have a pre-existing condition. In fact, if your accident has made your condition worse, you should be compensated for that, too. However, getting the money you deserve can be a challenge. The experienced Houston auto accident lawyers at Attorney Brian White & Associates can help you fight insurance companies and demand the money you deserve. Contact our law firm a call today to arrange a free consultation and learn more.
What is a Pre-Existing Condition?
A pre-existing condition is any health issue that pre-dates your car accident. Some pre-existing conditions, like diabetes, cancer, or other illnesses, might not be worsened because of a crash. Others, however, could become a bigger issue or more serious problem if you are involved in a collision. Pre-existing conditions that might be exacerbated because of a car accident include:
- Back injuries, including herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, and muscle strains
- Broken bones
- Brain injuries
- Arthritis, and
- Deep vein thrombosis.
Note that a pre-existing condition doesn’t have to be physical. It can also include intangible illnesses, such as PTSD, depression, or anxiety. The trauma of an accident can cause old injuries to flare up or simply aggravate an existing condition.
Texas Eggshell Skull Doctrine
The fact that you have a pre-existing medical condition shouldn’t exclude you from recovering compensation. This is true, even if your pre-existing condition made you more susceptible to a particular injury or just getting hurt, in general. Thanks to the eggshell skull rule, your pre-existing condition cannot be used against you when you file a lawsuit.
The eggshell skull doctrine basically explains that a defendant has to take the plaintiff as they are. In other words, the fact that you have frail bones or suffer from a blood clotting disorder can’t be used as a defense in a lawsuit. The fact that another person wouldn’t have suffered the same injuries as you or that their injuries might not have been as severe doesn’t matter. The defendant has to take responsibility for the harm they’ve caused you.
Under the eggshell skull doctrine, your pre-existing condition can’t be used to deny you rightful compensation as long as:
- The condition was stable at the time of the accident, and
- The only reason your injury has worsened is because you were involved in this accident.
Keep in mind that you’ll have to be able to provide evidence to prove that your pre-existing condition has been aggravated because of the crash.
You Have a Duty to Mitigate Your Injuries
The defendant in your case has to take you as you are. At the same time, you are charged with a responsibility to mitigate your injuries. This means that you have to take reasonable steps to minimize the severity of your injuries. The person who caused your accident will only be held financially accountable for the harm they cause. You cannot allow your injuries to worsen and expect the defendant to cover the costs of complications that arise.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you are involved in a car accident in Houston. It’s pretty clear that you’ve broken a bone in your leg. Despite the fact that you’ve suffered from deep vein thrombosis in the past, you decline to the doctor to get it checked out and go home instead. A couple of days later, you feel a tightness in your leg.
The skin is red and swollen. It’s hot to the touch. You finally decide to go to the hospital. When you get there, your heart begins to race and your chest tightens. A doctor discovers that you’ve suffered a pulmonary embolism as a complication of deep vein thrombosis. The embolism isn’t fatal, but causes permanent damage to your lungs. You’ll require respiratory therapy for the rest of your life.
Should the driver who caused your car accident be held financially responsible for the costs related to your hospitalization, pulmonary embolism, and future medical treatment? That driver – and their insurer – would likely decline to pay you for these costs. Why? Because you failed to mitigate your injury.
The pulmonary embolism is likely a complication of DVT, which was a complication of your broken bone. If you’d sought medical attention right away, a thorough evaluation could have prevented this turn of events. Your leg could have been treated, your DVT prevented, and your health kept intact. Instead, delaying medical care caused your injury to get much worse.
While the injury might have been exacerbated by your pre-existing condition, your failure to mitigate your injury could affect your claim for damages. Under Texas state law, sharing responsibility for an accident or failing to mitigate your injuries can limit or bar a financial recovery.
What If the Insurer Claims My Injury Wasn’t Caused By the Crash?
Sometimes an insurance adjuster might claim that an injury of yours wasn’t the result of an accident. Rather, they’ll argue that the injury pre-dated the crash. If that’s true, the company wouldn’t be financially responsible for the costs of that injury – only costs related to the aggravation of that injury.
These tactics shouldn’t be successful, for a few reasons. First, insurance companies are not entitled to just search through your medical records. The adjuster might be able to argue that your injury isn’t related to your accident, but it’s highly unlikely that they’ll be able to prove it.
You’ll have the opportunity to provide any records that can disprove the claim that you suffered from a particular injury before you were involved in this crash. The good news is that you can control which records are provided. You don’t have to give the company everything – just enough to discredit their attempts at denying your claim.
Second, if you sought medical care promptly after your accident, you’ll have an easier time proving that you’ve been injured as a result of the car accident. When you go to the doctor or emergency room, it will be documented. A medical record will include a rundown of your injuries, the results of a preliminary physical exam and diagnostic testing, treatment protocols, and your doctor’s notes. All of this information can help to create a causal link between your accident and your injuries. This will be instrumental in proving that your injuries are a result of the crash and that you deserve to be compensated for them.
You Can Recover Damages For Pre-Existing Conditions If They Are Aggravated in a Crash
So, pre-existing conditions can’t be used against you if you’re involved in a crash in Houston. You can potentially recover compensation as long as you’ve mitigated your injuries. What kind of damages can you receive for your pre-existing health conditions? Simply put, you can seek damages for additional costs, expenses, and suffering that are a result of your accident. This might include money for:
- Medical devices or equipment
- Other medical bills
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Lost wages and income
- Disability, and more.
If a loved one has died in an accident, you could also be entitled to damages for their wrongful death. This is true, even if they had a prior injury that made them more susceptible to suffering a fatal injury. Our compassionate personal injury lawyers can help to guide you through this difficult and trying time.
There Will Be a Limited Time to Pursue Compensation
Once you are involved in a car accident in Houston, you will have a limited amount of time to file a claim and demand compensation for your injuries. The statute of limitations for most car accident injury lawsuits is two years. The clock typically begins to run at the date of the accident.
What happens if you don’t realize that the accident has exacerbated your pre-existing injury or medical condition? What if it takes you a few months to discover the fact that you’ve been hurt? In these cases, the statute of limitations can be tolled – or paused. In other words, the clock will begin to run when you reasonably discover your injury.
Keep in mind that you will lose the right to file a claim and recover compensation if you wait too long.
Schedule a Free Consultation With Our Houston Car Accident Lawyers
Having a pre-existing condition before you get into a car accident can make a legal claim for damages complicated. Fortunately, you don’t have to navigate a lawsuit or insurance claim on your own. Call Attorney Brian White & Associates to find out how our Houston personal injury attorneys might be able to help you get the money you deserve. Your initial injury case assessment is free, so call now.