Pre-Existing Conditions

A pre-existing condition is a medical condition that existed before a motor vehicle collision. Pre-existing conditions can be "symptomatic" or "asymptomatic." A symptomatic pre-existing condition is a medical problem that a person has before an event such as a car crash. A car crash victim can recover only for new symptoms or a worsening of symptoms following a car accident. For example, a person is told that he or she has spine spondylolysis or spine degeneration that is causing neck pain and the course of treatment is pain medicine. Then after a car crash, the person still has neck pain, but it is worse, with tingling down one arm and occasional sharp shooting pain down that same arm. These new symptoms are unresolved after medicine, therapy and even injection treatments and the patient is recommended for decompression surgery. This car crash victim faces two common defenses: 1.) this is the same neck condition he or she had before the crash and it is nothing new, and 2.) this is just the natural progression of a pre-existing condition and the treatment does not have anything to do with the car accident. However, CACI 3927 (this is a jury instruction typically read to the jury just before it deliberates in a California injury case) reads, "Plaintiff is not entitled to damages for any physical or emotional condition that he or she had before the defendant's conduct occurred. However, if the plaintiff had a physical or emotional condition that was made worse by the defendant's wrongful conduct, you must award damages that will reasonably and fairly compensate the plaintiff for the effect on that condition." Simply, if the crash made the plaintiff worse off than before the crash, then the jury must award damages to the plaintiff to compensate for the additional degree of harm. While most injury attorneys disfavor pre-existing injury cases because they are "more complicated" or "less clean," we see pre-existing condition cases as opportunities. Contact us at the Traffic Accident Law Center to hear our strategies concerning how to make your pre-existing condition the center of your case.