From Prior Injury to New Accident: Who’s Liable for Your Injuries?

extrication_accident_rescue_421161-scaledWhat happens if you were previously injured in an incident and later involved in another accident that causes further injury? Can the person responsible for the second injury be liable for your injuries? Although pre-existing injuries can make it more complicated to determine the scope of your injuries, the court will still consider the extent to which the second accident caused additional injuries and affected your life.

Shermain Montiel Vaughn was driving a truck for Oakley Trucking, his employer. Vaughn hit the front of Jenella Ben’s car while attempting to turn left on a street in Lafayette, Louisiana. At the time of the accident, Rickie Hairston was riding in Ben’s car. Vaughn was 100% at fault for the accident and was in the scope and course of his job with Oakley Trucking when the accident occurred. Hairston filed a lawsuit, and the trial court ruled in his favor. The trial court awarded him $195,000 for general damages and $60,683 for special damages, including $240 of lost wages. Vaughn filed an appeal based partly on the assertion Hairston’s credibility was suspect given his prior injury and the facts surrounding which accident caused the injuries he complained of. 

Vaughn argued the trial court erred in not discrediting Hairston’s testimony after he was impeached at trial. He claimed Hairston hurt his knee from an incident unrelated to the car accident. He also argued Hairston was not credible because he acknowledged he did not tell his doctors about his prior injury. However, an appellate court defers to the trial court’s credibility determination because it is better positioned as it can examine a witness’s demeanor and the nuances of their testimony. See Lopez v. Lopez

Although it was eventually revealed at trial that Hairston had previously injured his knee after jumping out of a bunk bed, he testified he did not have any persisting issues related to his knee injury from the prior accident. He had been able to return to work fully and still play sports like basketball, which he could no longer do after this at-issue car accident. 

At trial, a doctor also testified that the car accident caused severe knee changes, affecting his lifestyle and resulting in ongoing issues. The appellate court explained reasonable people could have believed the testimony from Hairston and the doctors that his knee injury resulted from the car wreck, not his prior incident. Even if the car wreck had aggravated Hairston’s pre-existing injury to his knee, defendants could still be liable because you take a plaintiff as you find them and must compensate them for the full extent of their injuries. See Lasha v. Olin Corp.. Therefore, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s finding in favor of Hairston.

Competent legal representation becomes crucial when faced with a situation where a pre-existing injury is exacerbated by a subsequent accident. The appellate court’s affirmation of the trial court’s ruling emphasizes that defendants must compensate plaintiffs for the full extent of their injuries, regardless of pre-existing conditions. If you have been involved in a car accident, you must consult with a good attorney, especially if you have pre-existing conditions that might make it more challenging to establish the scope of your injuries from the current accident. Remember, justice can be achieved even when faced with the challenges of pre-existing injuries.

Additional Sources: Jenella E. Ben and Rickie Hairston v. Baldwin & Lyons, Inc., et al.

Article Written By Berniard Law Firm 

Additional Berniard Law Firm Article on Pre-existing Conditions: Can You Prove Your Injuries Were Caused by the Accident?

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