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Personal Injury Lawyer

How do pre-existing injuries affect your San Diego personal injury case

Will prior injuries or preexisting injuries destroy or affect my injury claim?

Not necessarily. Having a preexisting injury isn’t going to destroy your case. When someone causes your injuries, due to their own negligence, they are responsible for the damage they cause.

So long as the most recent accident caused your injuries, and you can show this, you are entitled to full and fair compensation.

Now, your prior injuries and preexisting conditions are important to your case. You need to disclose all of your injuries to your attorney, whether they happened right before the most recent accident or 20 years ago.

Preexisting conditions need to be disclosed so that an analysis can be done. We need to determine if your present symptoms are caused by the most recent accident. Maybe it is a mix of existing symptoms that are made worse by the most recent accident.

Also, preexisting conditions can make your case better. Prior injuries make you more susceptible to injury to those sections of your body. If you already have back problems, and get hit by another car or fall down, your back might be in worse shape than someone else who didn’t have any existing injuries there.

It’s only fair to analyze your case in this manner. If the negligent person who caused your injuries was only responsible for 50% or 70% of your present injuries, then that is how much they should be responsible for. Also, if your prior injuries made it easier for you to suffer greater injuries, then the defendant should be responsible for that.

So, it is important that you are not afraid to tell your doctors and attorney about any prior injuries, accidents or conditions you have. If your pain or symptoms are worse after an accident than before, than it’ll be shown that the defendant caused you injury, and owes you full and fair compensation.

California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)

California has two relevant jury instructions on pre-existing conditions.

3927. Aggravation of Preexisting Condition or Disability

[Name of plaintiff] is not entitled to damages for any physical or emotional condition that [he/she] had before [name of defendant]’s conduct occurred. However, if [name of plaintiff] had a physical or emotional condition that was made worse by [name of defendant]’s wrongful conduct, you must award damages that will reasonably and fairly compensate [him/her] for the effect on that condition.

Sources and Authority

A tortfeasor may be held responsible where the effect of his negligence is to aggravate a preexisting condition or disease.” (Hastie v. Handeland (1969) 274 Cal.App.2d 599, 604 [79 Cal.Rptr. 268], internal citations omitted.)

Plaintiff may recover to the full extent that his condition has worsened as a result of defendant’s tortious act.” (Ng v. Hudson (1977) 75 Cal.App.3d 250, 255 [142 Cal.Rptr. 69], internal citations omitted, overruled on another ground in Soule v. General Motors (1994) 8 Cal.4th 548, 574 [34 Cal.Rptr.2d 607, 882 P.2d 298].)

It is by no means self-evident that an act which precipitates a flare-up of a pre-existing condition should be considered a ’cause which, in natural and continuous sequence, produces the injury.’ Thus, general instructions on proximate cause were not sufficient to inform the jury on the more specific issue of aggravation of pre-existing conditions.” (Ng, supra, 75 Cal.App.3d at p. 256.)

“[An instruction on preexisting condition] is proper only where the injured is the claimant seeking compensation for his injuries. That is not the case here in a wrongful death action.” (Vecchione v. Carlin (1980) 111 Cal.App.3d 351, 358 [168 Cal.Rptr. 571].)

3928. Unusually Susceptible Plaintiff

You must decide the full amount of money that will reasonably and fairly compensate [name of plaintiff] for all damages caused by the wrongful conduct of [name of defendant], even if [name of plaintiff] was more susceptible to injury than a normally healthy person would have been, and even if a normally healthy person would not have suffered similar injury.

Sources and Authority

“That a plaintiff without such a [preexisting] condition would probably have suffered less injury or no injury does not exonerate a defendant from liability.” (Ng v. Hudson (1977) 75 Cal.App.3d 250, 255 [142 Cal.Rptr. 69], internal citations omitted, overruled on another ground in Soule v. General Motors (1994) 8 Cal.4th 548, 574 [34 Cal.Rptr.2d 607, 882 P.2d 298].)

“The tortfeasor takes the person he injures as he finds him. If, by reason of some preexisting condition, his victim is more susceptible to injury, the tortfeasor is not thereby exonerated from liability.” (Rideau v. Los Angeles Transit Lines (1954) 124 Cal.App.2d 466, 471 [268 P.2d 772], internal citations omitted.)

Don’t hide pre-existing injuries from your injury and accident lawyer

As you see, even if you have pre-existing injuries, or you were more susceptible to injury, you can still recover fair compensation from the person who caused your injuries.

But your attorney needs to know about these issues before the defendants and their attorneys do. We can usually deal with pre-existing issues as long as we know about it.

So you must absolutely tell your personal injury attorney about any possible issues.

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Personal Injury Lawyer

Will hiring a personal injury lawyer increase the value of your case?

When does hiring a personal injury lawyer increase the value of the case?

Studies by the Insurance Research Council (an insurance organization) consistently show, injured victims who hire attorneys to represent them in their car accident cases recover 40% to 350% more than those who don’t.

Why? Because insurance companies hire adjusters to pay you as little as they can get away with. So if you don’t hire an attorney, they will often refuse to pay you reasonable value for your injuries. Without a reasonable threat of a lawsuit, they will offer unreasonably low amounts, hoping you get frustrated and settle.

Unfortunately this happens enough for them to keep with this strategy.

When hiring a personal injury lawyer doesn’t help

There are times when perhaps hiring a lawyer will not help. When the accident, injuries and medical costs are relatively minor, you might not gain a financial advantage by hiring an attorney. When the amounts are smaller, there is a better chance of getting a reasonable offer. Even if the amount they offer is lower than what you truly deserve, you won’t have to pay for a lawyer.

A lawyer’s fee is usually a percentage of the total settlement. If you don’t have to pay this fee, it makes up for the slightly lower settlement offer.

But be careful here. No matter how small the accident, I wouldn’t put it past the insurance company to try and cheat you out of your money anyway. Insurance adjusters have been known to participate in contests to see who can negotiate the lowest settlement offers. One adjuster boasting they obtained a $10 settlement!

So be aware of your rights, and try to figure out what a reasonable offer for your accident would be.

When hiring a lawyer does help

If you are involved in a serious accident, with significant damage to your car, visits to the emergency room, and extensive medical treatment lasting months or even years, then you need to speak to an attorney right away.

The higher your medical bills are, the more likely the insurance company is going to pull out every dirty trick in the book to keep from paying you fairly. Insurance companies are for-profit businesses. It is their sole purpose to take in as much money as possible, and pay out as little as possible. It’s their business model. So you have to fight for your just and fair compensation.

Too often I see victims trying to handle their case on their own and being tricked or forced to accept a lower settlement offer. It is your right to handle the case on your own. Just make sure you understand what a reasonable offer should be, and compare that number to the one offered you. If your medical bills total $20,000, $50,000 or more, then I highly recommend you contact my office to discuss your rights. If you suffered a lot of damages, it is imperative you tell your story. The stronger the story, the bigger the settlement or jury verdict.

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Personal Injury Lawyer

Beware the full and final settlement

Beware the Full and Final Settlement In Your San Diego Injury Case

If someone damaged your car, their insurance company may offer to settle your claim directly with you. In my experience their offer is usually much lower than what you deserve. That’s just how they operate. So oftentimes, a dispute will develop between the car owner and the insurance company.

The insurance company may try a trick where they offer you a lower amount, and then send you a check in that amount. If you disagree with the amount they want to pay you, be careful in accepting and cashing any check sent by the adjuster. Make sure you take a look at the check, and look for words such as “Full and Final Settlement” or “Payment in Full” or any other words that resemble these.

This is important because if you cask that check, and the check contains these words, you may stuck with the amount on the check, and will not be able to demand more.

This is true even if you strike or cross out those words on the check. California Commercial Code 3311 states,  if there is a dispute as to the amount owed, and that the payment is made with a restriction or condition (payment in full, full and final settlement), then you are prevented from pursuing any additional money for that claim. This is true even if you strike the condition/words contained on the check.

You should deal directly with the insurance adjuster on your accident claim

While I don’t recommend anyone deal with the insurance company on any matter unless you are fully aware of all of the risks, if you do decide to negotiate with the insurance company adjuster, make sure you review the check carefully if you dispute the amount of the settlement in any way.

If you do receive a check and it does contain these words, hold off on cashing the check. Or return the check directly to the insurance company.

Did you suffer injuries in an accident, and don’t want to deal with the insurance company’s games just to fix your car? Give our office a call and schedule your Free Consultation. There is no obligation, no charge, and you’ll get all of your questions answered.