California Girl With Pre-Existing Health Conditions Wins $10.8M Judgment in Rear-End Accident

People who are injured in auto accidents come in all shapes and sizes, varieties, and walks of life. Some are young, some old. Some are the “picture of health” before their accidents, while others have pre-existing conditions. If you are someone who has a pre-existing health problem, and you find yourself injured in a crash for which someone else was at fault, it is very important to act decisively and quickly. One thing you should do is retain an experienced California car accident lawyer. Just because you have pre-existing health problems doesn’t mean you cannot recover damages. In fact, depending on the facts of your case, the damages award you receive may include an amount to cover the extent to which your accident worsened your pre-existing condition.

One example of this was an action decided in Los Angeles Superior Court (Case No. BC557692) recently, which involved a scenario that is likely one of every parent’s nightmares. The child who would become the plaintiff in the case was sitting in the back seat of a vehicle, directly behind the driver’s seat. The driver was fully stopped at an intersection controlled by a stop sign. The defendant slammed into the stopped vehicle at a high rate of speed. The crash inflicted multiple fractures upon the child and also a traumatic brain injury, according to the plaintiff’s case.

The driver who rear-ended the vehicle with the child admitted liability and was determined to be 100% at fault. Medical professionals determined that the girl was a “4” on the coma scale (which translates to “severe traumatic brain injury”) at the scene of the accident and later assessed her as a “12” (which translates to “moderate traumatic brain injury”) at the hospital.

The key issue litigated in this case was causation. Undisputedly, the defendant had caused the accident, and the girl had suffered injuries in the crash. Under the law, though, a defendant can only be held liable for, and ordered to pay damages related to, harm that was “proximately caused” by the accident. The issue, then, revolved around the extent to which the accident caused or worsened the girl’s brain problems.

On the one hand, the defense pointed out that the girl had health issues before the accident, since she had an IEP (or individualized education program) in school because she had a visual processing disability and also had a developmental condition formerly known as mental retardation. Those issues existed prior to the crash. The girl did not have, according to the defense, any brain damage that resulted from the accident. The defense’s central argument was that the accident itself did not inflict any permanent brain injury upon the child, and the jury should award $0 for future medical care.

The plaintiff’s case contended that the crash did inflict a permanent brain injury (by worsening the issues she already had) and that, as a result of the harm the child suffered in the collision, she would need numerous follow-up visits and assessments by medical specialists, as well as care delivered by a home health aide.

In the end, the jury sided with the plaintiff, awarding almost $10.8 million in damages. This included $6.8 million in economic damages and $4 million in non-economic damages.

California observes what’s known colloquially among legal experts as the “eggshell” (or unusually susceptible) plaintiff rule. That rule says that a liable defendant owes damages in an amount equal to the actual amount of harm inflicted, even if the harm that was inflicted would have been less (or none at all) had the plaintiff been 100% healthy before the accident. Put in other words, an at-fault defendant takes his plaintiff “as he finds him.” In this situation, that meant that a girl with learning disabilities was still able to recover for the brain injuries she suffered in this vehicle crash that made her problems worse.

When it comes to skilled advice and advocacy for injured people, the experienced San Mateo car accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos are here to help. Our attorneys have been helping injured people for many years in taking on insurance companies, at-fault drivers, and others responsible for the damages caused. To set up a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys, contact us at 650-345-8484 or through our website.

More Blog Posts:

Injured Passenger Receives $12M in Damages Award for Injuries Suffered in Southern California Drunk Driving Accident, San Mateo Injury Lawyers Blog, published Sept. 6, 2017

California Man Injured in Low-Speed Crash Wins $1M Verdict in ‘Eggshell Plaintiff’ Case, San Mateo Injury Lawyers Blog, published Dec. 20, 2016

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