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Like it sounds, a preexisting condition is an illness or injury that a person has prior to an accident. Common preexisting conditions that many adults have include:
The best evidence of preexisting records are medical records. Note that plaintiffs are usually advised to be forthcoming with their medical records that reveal all relevant preexisting conditions:
If a plaintiff hides their medical history only to have the defendant uncover it through an investigation, the defendant can use the plaintiff’s secrecy to discredit his/her claim. Judges may even sanction plaintiffs with large fines for being dishonest about preexisting conditions.
Accident victims who have preexisting conditions are often referred to as “eggshell plaintiffs” because they are more fragile than people without prior illnesses or injuries. But being an eggshell plaintiff does not automatically bar them from recovering money damages for an accident.
In fact, Nevada law requires that defendants take plaintiffs as they are. In short, defendants are liable to plaintiffs with or without preexisting conditions.
Example: An elderly man with osteoporosis is walking through the Bellagio. He slips on spilled water in the lobby. The elderly man breaks his hip. The elderly man sues the Bellagio for negligence under Nevada premises liability laws. The Bellagio admits fault at not cleaning up the spill, but it argues that it should not have to pay the man’s extravagant medical bills because his preexisting condition caused him to suffer worse injuries than he would have otherwise. Under Nevada law, however, eggshell plaintiffs like the elderly man are just as entitled to money damages as plaintiffs who are in perfect health.
Typical evidence that plaintiffs attorneys use to show that an accident aggravated a preexisting condition include radiology scans and expert medical testimony.
Accident victims with preexisting conditions are just as entitled to compensatory damages as are accident victims without preexisting conditions. However, the damages are limited only to whatever additional injuries the accident caused.
Example: Jill’s right leg is healing from a fracture. Jill falls down a defective escalator in the Fashion Show Mall, and the leg fractures in the same place again. The Fashion Show Mall admits it violated Nevada negligence laws by not fixing the escalator. The mall may be liable for any medical bills for treating the repeat fracture. But the mall should not be liable for any medical bills for the fracture prior to the fall or for any future medical bills Jill would have been responsible for had the accident never happened.
Depending on the case, defendants may also be liable for not just medical bills but also lost wages, loss of future earnings, and pain and suffering. And if the defendant acted especially egregiously, the court may impose punitive damages as well.
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.
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