Article by Ryan P. Lee, a personal injury lawyer in Calgary, Alberta
One of the most challenging problems when advancing a claim for personal injuries following an accident is proving the injuries actually occurred. This problem is further emphasized if you’ve had health concerns in the past due to previous accidents, sports, or other activities, or health concerns, or you’ve sustained an intervening injury due to another car accident, a sports injury, or the onset of some other condition after your car accident, but before your claim is resolved. The insurance company and the courts will carefully scrutinize your medical history to determine whether your claimed symptoms are attributable to injuries sustained in the accident, or whether they are related to an incident or condition wholly separate. This is part one of a two-part article dealing with the impact of unrelated injuries.
Injuries Part 1 – Pre-Existing Injuries
Generally, prior health concerns are only relevant if they are at issue in the claim. What this means, is that if you are claiming that the car accident in which you were involved caused an injury to your neck and your back, a broken pinky would not be relevant to your claim. However, if you’ve suffered from chronic neck issues for any reason, and the car accident caused the neck pain to worsen or aggravate, then it will be important to investigate if your problems impacted your accident-related injuries, and to what extent.
There are two general rules to consider when dealing with pre-existing health concerns. They are known as the “thin skull” and “crumbling skull” rules.
The “thin skull” rule serves to show that an individual who is more susceptible to injury due to some prior condition is still entitled to full compensation for their injuries. If, for example, you were involved in a cycling accident as a child, which broke your wrist. The injury healed but was left weakened and prone to further injury. You had learned to deal with it and it was functional and stable. However, after the accident, your wrist, being in vulnerable state before the accident, was injured. It does not matter if an “average” wrist may/would not have been injured. Your wrist was in a stable, position before the accident, therefore entitling you to full compensation.
The “crumbling skull” rule serves to show that if your medical condition was in a state of deterioration, it may impact the compensation to which you are entitled. For example, consider if you suffered from a progressive illness which, over a period of years, is expected to cause you increasingly severe pain symptoms in your neck. However, at the time of the accident, you were still functional, with minimal pain or no pain at all. If you sustained a neck injury in an accident, a key question is this: if the accident never occurred, would your neck symptoms have progressively worsened on their own to the level that your illness would have caused in any event? The accident may have caused your neck symptoms to flare up to a severe level, but if the evidence shows that your neck symptoms would have risen to that level in any event, your compensation would be reduced to account for the fact that you would have endured a similar chronic pain condition even if the accident had never occurred.
If you have been injured in an accident, the lawyers at Kubitz & Company would be happy to discuss the claims that are available to you. Please call us at 403-250-7100 to speak with us.
Article by Ryan P. Lee, a personal injury lawyer in Calgary, Alberta.