In a previous post I discussed whether or not someone would be held responsible for injuries caused to another party during a car accident if the other party already had injuries from a previous accident/medical condition. We determined in that post that the answer was yes. In this post, I’d like to discuss the possibility of that case going to trial.

If such a matter proceeds to trial, the jury is given actual instruction by the judge:  Aggravation of the Preexisting Disability. Aggravation of the Preexisting Disability provides different rules for awarding damages, depending on whether the preexisting injury was or was not causing the plaintiff any harm or symptoms at the time of this accident.

Obviously, the defendants in this case are not responsible for any of the plaintiff’s preexisting injuries. As a result, you may not award any money in this case for damages attributable solely to any preexisting illnesses/injury(s)/conditions.  

If the plaintiff was experiencing symptoms of the preexisting condition at the time of the accident, the plaintiff may recover damages for the aggravation or worsening of a preexisting illness/injury/condition, but only to the extent of that aggravation. The plaintiff has the burden of proving what portion of his/her condition is due to the preexisting injury.

If the plaintiff’s preexisting illness/injury/condition was not causing harm or symptoms at the time of the accident, but the preexisting condition combined with injuries incurred in the accident caused damage, the plaintiff is entitled to recovery for the full extent of the damages they sustained.

In either situation, the plaintiff has the burden of proving what portion of his/her condition is due to the preexisting injury and must do so by credible medical evidence, usually by a treating doctor who has had the benefit of reviewing all of the patient’s medical records, before and after the accident.

Therefore, remember that it is important to share any preexisting conditions, injuries, or accidents with your attorneys when you first meet if you are involved in an auto accident.