When negotiating your settlement after a slip and fall accident, you want to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your claim and arguments that the insurance company for the negligent property owner are likely to raise to deny or reduce your claim. This can help you be realistic about the worth of your case and to develop strategies with your attorney to defeat the adjuster’s arguments. One issue that insurance adjusters will often raise are pre-existing injuries.
Will a Pre-Existing Injury Reduce the Amount of Compensation You Receive?
A pre-existing injury is an injury that a person suffered in the past to the same body part injured in the slip and fall accident. If you had a pre-existing injury, the insurance adjuster might argue that the prior injury and not the accident caused your injury. While it is true that you are not entitled to compensation for a prior injury, you may be owed this if the pre-existing injury was made worse by the accident. How you handle your pre-existing injuries could impact the outcome of your case. Here’s how they could affect your settlement:
- Lack of disclosure. You must fully disclose your pre-existing injuries to your attorney. If you do not tell him about them, your attorney will be at a serious disadvantage when he discovers them at the same time that the negligent party’s insurance company does during their investigation of your claim. This could seriously reduce your credibility and hamper your attorney’s ability to negotiate a fair settlement for you.
- Eggshell plaintiff rule. Under this rule, you are not entitled to less compensation because your general physical condition makes it more likely that you will suffer an injury in an accident. This means that your pre-existing injuries should not affect the amount of compensation you receive if you really suffered a new injury in the slip and fall accident. If you have disclosed your prior injury to your attorney, he can work with your doctor to show that the accident and not the prior injury is causing your current medical problems.
- Irrelevant injuries. If the pre-existing injury occurred years ago and did not require medical treatment for a long time, it could be completely irrelevant in determining the value of your claim—even if the adjuster tries to make it an issue.
- Helpful medical records. Even if you did receive recent treatment for a pre-existing injury shortly before your fall, the medical records may be helpful. For example, x-rays or other tests could show a before and after picture of your injuries that confirms you really suffered a new injury. In addition, your attorney can use the lack of any treatment for your pre-existing injuries in your past medical records to show the irrelevancy between that injury and your new one.
If you were hurt in a slip and fall accident and had suffered a pre-existing injury, you need an experienced attorney who has strategies to successfully handle this issue. Contact our office to schedule an appointment to discuss your situation with one of our experienced slip and fall attorneys.