The law allows plaintiffs to recover damages in order to make them whole, as far as possible, from the harm they suffered due to the defendant's negligence. Thus, a plaintiff can obtain compensation for items such as medical costs, pain and suffering and other limitations or expenses his or her injury may entail.
In a case where a plaintiff has endured previous injuries or suffers from a previous medical condition, specifically identifying harm that results from the accident and not from these other factors can pose a challenge.
Evidence of the original condition is necessary
When the plaintiff suffers from a pre-existing condition, insurance companies and defense attorneys often try to attribute as many injury symptoms as possible to that condition rather than the recent accident. Thus, it is important to obtain the right medical help and to extensively document symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.
Previous injuries do not bar recovery
However, it is not a valid argument to claim that a plaintiff should not get compensation because a person without a pre-existing condition would not have suffered such severe injuries from the same accident. Washington State law follows the "eggshell skull" principle and rules that one must take the plaintiff as one finds him or her. So long as the defendant acted negligently and thus caused the injury, the plaintiff can recover for the harm that results.
To hold a defendant liable for negligence, the law requires the general type of harm to be foreseeable, not its full extent. Thus, when a driver runs a red light, it is foreseeable he or she will cause a crash and cause traumatic injuries to pedestrians, bicyclists or people in other vehicles. It does not matter if the trauma turns out to cause more harm than one might expect based on the force of the crash or other circumstances.
In some cases, injury from an accident can cause separate and additional problems from those stemming from the prior condition. In others, the trauma can also aggravate the prior condition. In either case, comprehensive medical evaluation and documentation is essential to obtaining the full extent of recovery one needs.