It happens all the time in personal injury cases (car accidents, motorcycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, bicycle accidents, slip and fall accidents, trip and fall accidents, etc.), an individual sustains an injury to a part of their body that already had problems. Logically it make a lot of sense, a previously injured body part is normally more susceptible to reinjury or aggravation of the existing injury. The difficult part comes in delineating what was a previous injury and what is a new injury or an aggravation of the pre-existing condition.
At trial the Florida Courts have a standard jury instruction that deals with pre-existing conditions. The jury instruction states:
If you find that the (defendant(s)) caused a bodily injury, and that the injury resulted in [an aggravation of an existing disease or physical defect] [or] [activation of a latent disease or physical defect], you should attempt to decide what portion of (claimant’s) condition resulted from the [aggravation] [or] [activation]. If you can make that determination, then you should award only those damages resulting from the [aggravation] [or] [activation]. However, if you cannot make that determination, or if it cannot be said that the condition would have existed apart from the injury, then you should award damages for the entire condition suffered by (claimant).
Basically, the jury instruction asks the jury to attempt to decide what part of the injury existed prior to the accident and what part of the injury was caused by the accident. In theory this sounds like a simple task, however, in practice it can become extremely difficult. A personal injury claimant is left with the task of articulating to the jury how the accident in question created a new injury or aggravated a preexisting injury. This can be done with medical records, radiographic films, and medical opinion testimony. However, we find the most important and relevant evidence is the testimony of the injured individual. The injured individual needs to be prepared to fully explain to the jury the injuries and symptoms sustained in the accident. The explanation to the jury needs to be presented in manner that the jury can relate to and sympathize with.
At trial the presentation of the evidence can become almost as important as the evidence itself. If evidence is presented in a confusing, disjointed, or disorganized manner a jury may never be able to connect the evidence to arrive at a fair and just verdict.
For these and many other reasons it is important that if you or a loved one are injured in personal injury accident that you hire an experienced trial attorney. Although not all cases go to trial, it is important that you hire an attorney that is preparing from day one as if your case may go trial.