I Was in A Semi-Truck Accident, But Have Pre-Existing Injuries – Can I Still Recover?

There are few things more important than health to our happiness and well-being. Thanks to medical and pharmaceutical advances, along with an increased understanding of nutrition, exercise, and healthy living, our citizens are now better equipped than ever with the knowledge necessary to choose a healthy lifestyle. Thankfully, we have control over many things that affect our health, such as diet and exercise. Unfortunately, other factors, which can negatively impact our health, such as genetics, disease, and the negligent and intentional wrongdoing of others, are all outside our control. And sometimes it’s complicated to determine exactly what has caused a particular injury. For example, what happens when a person with a pre-existing medical condition or injury is injured in a semi-truck accident. Can an injured person still hold a negligent trucking company or truck driver accountable, or is the victim limited by the pre-existing condition? We’ll address these common questions in this article.

Recovery for Aggravation of an Injury

Oregon Law provides that a wrongdoer is responsible for aggravation of a pre-existing injury. This is a fair rule, which holds wrongdoers accountable for the injuries they cause, but does not create liability for injuries the wrongdoer did not cause. Determining what constitutes aggravation often requires careful investigation. The injured victim can provide important insight by explaining the differences in the victim’s health before and after the accident. Additionally, medical experts often provide assistance in making this determination. Many times, a fair and impartial jury must make the final decision.

The “Eggshell Plaintiff” Doctrine

The “eggshell plaintiff” doctrine provides that the wrongdoer “takes his victim as he finds him,” and is an important rule for holding wrongdoers fully accountable for their negligent or intentional acts. For example, assume that a tractor-trailer truck driver negligently causes an accident which breaks a bone in the victim’ leg. If the victim’s bone was thinner or weaker than normal, should the truck driver be able to avoid accountability for his negligence? The law says “no,” and the next section provides an interesting real-life example.

Example of the “Eggshell Plaintiff” Doctrine

In one interesting Oregon case, Ms. Chong sued the manufacturer and seller (referred to collectively as “the Defendants”) of an inversion chair she purchased. Ms. Chong alleged that she fell from the chair because it was defectively designed. As a result of her injuries, Ms. Chong became a permanent paraplegic.

The Defendants sought to offer expert testimony from Dr. Johnson, a neurosurgeon. Dr. Johnson opined that Ms. Chong suffered from a pre-existing condition called OPLL, which affects the spinal canal, making Ms. Chong more susceptible to injury. In the doctor’s opinion, if Ms. Chong had not suffered from OPLL, her fall would have resulted in a “trivial injury” or “no injury at all.” With regard to the extent of her injury, the trial judge excluded the doctor’s opinion that Ms. Chong would not have suffered a significant injury, if not for the OPLL. The Court ruled that if the Defendants were negligent, they could be held liable for all of Ms. Chong’s injuries, even though she had the pre-existing condition. We agree with this rule, which holds wrongdoers accountable, even when a victim has a pre-existing condition.

Explaining Injuries to Others

Injuries from a tractor-trailer accident can be severe. Getting healthy is the most important step for any accident victim. To obtain maximum health benefits, it’s important to provide accurate medical information to treating medical care providers, and you should do so freely. However, other third parties, such as insurance companies, may also request information, including the victim’s opinion concerning medical issues. Because medicine is complex, we often find that our own clients do not fully understand their medical conditions, including what may or may not be considered a pre-existing condition. Therefore, before communicating with anyone other than a medical care provider, we recommend consulting with your attorney, who can help you gather your medical records, make sure that your understanding is complete, and that your communications are accurate. Otherwise, you might draw incorrect medical conclusions, or provide inaccurate information.

Contact Us with Questions

Our experienced lawyers believe that if a wrongdoer causes harm, he should be held accountable to the injured victim. The fact that the victim has a pre-existing injury should not provide the wrongdoer with a way to avoid this accountability. Please contact us with any questions. We understand medical issues, have experience with medical records, and can obtain expert medical assistance, if needed.


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