Damages for the Aggravation of an Existing Injury

January 29, 2020

Seasoned Allentown Personal Injury Lawyer

If you’ve been seriously harmed in an accident due to the fault of another party, then Pennsylvania law may entitle you to compensation.  Personal injury litigation is not always as straightforward as one might initially expect — quite often, litigation can be complicated by circumstances that are beyond your control, such as the presence of a pre-existing injury or condition.

The Thin-Skull Doctrine

In Pennsylvania, and other jurisdictions, an injured plaintiff is only entitled to compensation if they can prove that the defendant’s misconduct (whether due to negligence, recklessness, or intentional harm) caused them to sustain losses.  The defendant can avoid liability entirely by introducing evidence that shows that the plaintiff’s supposed injuries actually predated the accident.  For example, the defendant might show that the neck stiffness symptoms suffered by the plaintiff are actually due to a pre-existing spinal condition that have nothing to do with the case-relevant accident.

Fortunately, the thin-skull doctrine (also known as the eggshell plaintiff doctrine) provides for recovery in situations where the plaintiff did, in fact, suffer from a pre-existing injury or condition, but that was aggravated by the defendant’s misconduct.  Under the thin-skull doctrine, the defendant cannot avoid liability simply because the defendant is uniquely weak or fragile.

If the defendant suffers from pre-existing nerve damage, for example, and the symptoms are substantially aggravated in a car accident caused by the defendant, then the defendant cannot avoid liability simply because the seriousness of the plaintiff’s injuries were enhanced by their pre-existing condition.

The key issue is whether the defendant’s misconduct actually aggravated the pre-existing injury or condition.  To succeed as a plaintiff, you will have to show that the symptoms are worsened (or that there are new symptoms) in a measurable way, likely with the assistance of medical experts.

Expert Testimony is Critical

When there is a pre-existing injury that is substantially linked to the harm suffered in a particular case, defendants tend to take an aggressive litigation posture in the hopes that they can avoid liability.  The success of such litigation often turns on fact-based issues, such as medical documentation that clearly delineates the differences between the pre-existing condition and the new injury.  Expert analysis and testimony is therefore critical in order to effectively advance the client’s interests.

Contact an Allentown Personal Injury Lawyer at Drake, Hileman & Davis, PC for Guidance

Here at Drake, Hileman & Davis, PC, our attorneys have extensive experience advocating on behalf of plaintiffs who have injured in various accident scenarios, including those that involve the aggravation a pre-existing injury.  Though personal injury litigation that centers around a pre-existing injury or condition can be challenging, opportunities to secure compensation are readily available.

We are detail-oriented litigators and take pride in our ability to effectively handle complex fact patterns and coordinate legitimate experts who can provide favorable testimony to support our client’s arguments.  If you’d like to have your claims evaluated, we encourage you to call us at 610-433-3910 or contact us online to arrange a free and confidential consultation with a skilled Allentown personal injury lawyer at our firm.