After an otherwise preventable accident or injury has taken the life of a family member, a wrongful death lawsuit is a common way for spouses and loved ones to try to recover from the financial costs of what happened. This type of lawsuit lets families seek redress for the financial burdens the follow the tragic loss of life, allowing the recovery of damages that the deceased would have been able to pursue if he or she were still able to.
There are certain factors that can lead to the increase or loss of a settlement or an award in a wrongful death case, and one of the most common defenses that insurance companies may try to use is pre-existing medical conditions. Is a pre-existing condition going to sink your wrongful death case? Here’s how a pre-existing condition could affect your case, what to do, and how to get the legal help you need today.
What Is a Pre-Existing Condition?
A pre-existing medical condition is a health issue that the victim had before the accident. Sometimes, in both personal injury and wrongful death cases, insurers will try to claim that a pre-existing condition was at the root of the victim’s injuries, not the accident. Insurance companies can even subpoena medical records from health care providers to try and determine if the prior condition is what caused the death.
If this prior condition is the sole cause of death, then the outcome of the case becomes less clear for the plaintiffs. However, this type of defense only works to a point, so a pre-existing condition isn’t the deal-breaker that it may seem to a legal case. In fact, while it’s true that defendants can’t be held liable for pre-existing injuries or medical conditions, they can be held liable for acts that aggravate or further complicate those issues—especially when death is the result.
The Eggshell Rule
A legal principle in Texas that’s sometimes called the “eggshell” or “thin skull” rule generally disallows plaintiffs from being punished for pre-existing conditions, letting victims and their families to recover damages related to the accident regardless of prior health conditions. This rule means that defendants aren’t typically allowed to make a defense claim that the injury wouldn’t have been as bad if only the victim didn’t have a prior condition. The law makes it clear that negligent parties are usually able to be held responsible for the hurt that they’ve caused, regardless of any existing frailty or illness of the victim.
In other words, defendants may not “hide” behind a pre-existing condition to dodge the liability or legal consequences for their actions. For instance, if someone who suffers from a blood clotting disorder is struck by a negligent driver and dies from blood loss, the negligent driver is still able to be held responsible for the death, even if someone without the disorder may have survived the accident.
Unscrupulous insurers may try to push settlements on survivors that are far less than what they’re legally entitled to. If you have recently lost a family member, be prepared for this kind of trick by getting an attorney to represent you as soon as possible, and let your lawyer deal with communications with the insurer and any other representatives of the defendant.
Get Legal Help Today
Wrongful death cases are a complicated area of law, and it’s never a good idea to attempt to navigate this type of claim without skilled legal representation. A law firm with extensive experience handling wrongful death cases like yours can clarify the legal issues and fight back against any sort of attempt to intimidate surviving family members with lowball settlements that wouldn’t stand up in court.
If you’ve lost a loved one in an accident caused by negligence, recklessness, or wrongdoing and don’t know where to turn, Wayne Wright LLP is here to help you. Our firm has decades of experience standing up for the rights of families who have suffered tragic loss, and we may be able to assist your family, too. For a free, no-obligation consultation with a legal professional, call us by phone, use our contact form online, or click the live chat box on this page right now.