We frequently see victims of personal injury who are more severely injured than might be expected because of a preexisting condition that made the person more vulnerable. For example, someone with preexisting degenerative disc disease in the lumber spine (or low back) may be severely injured in what appears to be a minor impact accident. It’s not that the person is being untruthful about his or her injury but instead is related to a more severe injury because of a preexisting condition.
In Arkansas, the law is clearly set out in a model jury instruction that provides that the jury is to award damages for “the full extent of any injury sustained, even though the degree of injury is found . . . to have resulted from the aggravation of a condition [or] disease that already existed and that predisposed to injury to a greater extent than another person.”1 It is well documented that serious injuries do occur in low speed rear end impacts.2
Most people don’t have a problem in concluding that an elderly person might sustain a serious injury in a low speed accident. For example, when a 90 year old breaks a bone at exactly the same time as being hit from behind in a low speed accident, most everyone would conclude that the impact caused the bone to break. So why is it that many people have difficulty believing that someone who is predisposed to a greater injury, due to a preexisting condition, is unlikely to sustain an injury in a low speed accident?
The answer is simple. Insurance companies have conditioned us to believe that nobody could possibly be injured in a low speed collision. Big business likes to mislead us into believing that, if someone has a preexisting condition that causes a more severe injury, the injured person shouldn’t be entitled to ask for monetary damages for his injury. What’s even more frustrating is that many people buy into this logic. That is, until an injury occurs with them or their family member.
But the law in Arkansas is clear that damages must be awarded for the full extent of the injury due to another person’s negligence. This is true even when the injury resulted from the aggravation of a pre-existing condition that predisposed the person to a greater injury. It is wrong, misleading, and contrary to the law for big business and insurance companies to suggest or argue that this isn’t the law.
*(c) 2014 by Chip Sexton.
1 Arkansas Model Jury Instructions – Civil 2203 (2013).
2 For a good discussion that is well documented discussing the subject, see Jeffrey Tucker, D.C., DACRB, Injury With Low-Speed Collisions, available online at http://www.dynamicchiropractic.com/mpacms/dc/article.php?id=40251.