Accident settlements include money for aggravation of pre-existing condition under certain circumstances. The question becomes whether the reckless driver’s conduct was a substantial factor in producing the injury and the aggravation, and whether the injured person’s post accident condition flowed from or was the natural consequence of the car accident. An aggravation can cause medical bills, wage loss, pain, suffering and disability.
A preexisting condition is a disease, condition, or injury that the person injured in an accident had before the accident. An aggravation of a preexisting condition happens when the accident activates either a dormant preexisting condition or a condition to which the injured person is predisposed. It can also cause an already present condition to get worse.
An old Wisconsin case explains when an aggravation occurs:
1. The other driver causes the first and second injury, thereby making one or both of the injuries worse than they might otherwise have been.
2. The other driver causes a second injury that makes a prior disease, condition, or injury worse.
3. The injured person’s first disease, condition, or injury increases the likelihood that a second injury will occur or that a second injury will be more severe than it would otherwise have been.
Wieting v. Town of Millston, 77 Wis. 523 (1890).
The defendant is liable for all resulting damages if the aggravation is a consequence that naturally flows from the defendant’s act or omission. The aggravation must be compensated even when it is not foreseeable by the defendant. Crouse v. Chicago & Nw. Ry., 104 Wis. 473 (1899).
The legal reason for the rule is called the eggshell person or the take-your-victim-as-you-find-him-or-her rule of the common law. The eggshell theory is that the defendant who causes an accident should not be able to reduce his responsibility by arguing that if the injured person was not already so damaged there would not have been any more damage. In other words, if one rearends an older woman causing severe injury, he cannot reduce his liability by claiming a younger person would have been fine. Of course, the aggravation or severity of the injuries must still have been caused by the accident and not a natural result of the pre-existing condition. This is almost always a matter for expert medical opinion, which the insurance company and if necessary the jury must consider in making the ultimate decision on awarding money for an aggravation of a pre-existing condition.
McCormick Law Office in Milwaukee, Wisconsin regularly represents persons injured in accidents who also have a pre-existing condition. We review prior medical records and if necessary ask the doctor to differentiate between pre-existing injuries and injuries caused or aggravated by the accident.