We often are asked how our client's claim is affected when he or she has had prior injury problems, or when there are other unique situations that might prevent the client from making his or her rightful recovery. Can I sue if the only part of my body hurt in the car accident (or truck accident, or slip and fall) was already hurt from a prior injury? Can I recover for injuries if I'm already on disability? What if the doctor said I didn't break any bones? What if the police officer said I was at fault in the wreck? What if my child was beaten up or sexually assaulted at school, but I don't know exactly who did it or what happened?
With this post, Rowe & Rowe attempts to answer some of these questions. At the risk of coming off as a smart-aleck, the answer is, in virtually all cases: "It depends." At first glance, this response may seem singularly unhelpful. In fact, it should inspire quite a bit of hope and optimism about your ability to make a full recovery for your or your family member's loss.
The truth is that in very few cases does Georgia's legal system say flat out to an injured person, or to the family of someone who has been killed: "you cannot recover." Our system has a preference for resolution of civil disputes by juries, rather than by procedural and technical rules put in place by the legislature and enforced by judges. This preference appears all over the rules and case law that govern personal injury cases in Georgia. Generally speaking, where there is an injury caused by another's negligence, the law in our fair state provides a remedy to the person injured.
Make no mistake: some cases simply will not fly, no matter how creative your lawyer, no matter how terrible the injury. As we have said in this blog a hundred times: plain old accidents do in fact happen. Not every death is a wrongful death. Not every accident was caused by someone else's negligence. Lawyers who will take and file any case, no matter how ridiculous, are doing a disservice to their own reputations and to our civil justice system as a whole.
But the problems with these cases that cause Rowe & Rowe to pass on them are not problems that the law itself imposes: these are inherent problems created by the facts of the case. The law itself is quite accommodating to personal injury claimants. If someone else is responsible for your injury, then the confident and creative lawyers at Rowe & Rowe in all likelihood can develop a plan to get your claim up and running.
To illustrate this point, let's go back to the questions posed at the top of this post.
Can I sue if the only part of my body hurt in the car accident (or truck accident, or slip and fall) was already hurt from a prior injury? Answer: yes. A pre-existing condition is a fact which the defense lawyers will try to exploit ("This guy's neck was already hurt"), but which your own lawyers can use to your advantage ("Yes the Plaintiff's neck was already hurt, but that just made him more susceptible to even more severe and debilitating injury when the defendant t-boned his car")
Can I recover for injuries if I'm already on disability? Answer: yes. Your legal team will have to deal with the issue, which certainly can complicate matters. But the simple fact that a person is disabled does not strip him of any right to recovery in the civil justice system.
What if the doctor said I didn't break any bones? Answer: you can recover for any and all injuries you suffer in an accident, including not just broken bones, but brain injuries, soft tissue injuries (strains, sprains, etc), and others, along with what are called "general damages": pains, suffering, emotional distress, mental anguish, loss of the enjoyment of life, permanent impairment, and bodily disfigurement.
What if the police officer said I was at fault in the wreck? Answer: Answer: what the police say about a wreck is the single most over-rated fact in the entire field. It's up to your attorney to argue the case.
What if my child was beaten up or sexually assaulted at school, but I don't know exactly who did it or what happened? Answer: your legal team, if they are worth their salt, will find out what you know, get answers to what you don't know, and make a plan going forward to right whatever wrong has occurred.
One of the interesting things in this business is how truly endless are the permutations of facts and circumstances under which people are injured. No matter how long you do this work, new scenarios and new questions always come up. Call us to discuss your particular factual scenario. The law is favorable to injured people and their families: we can help you find the solution.
You can always reach one of our lawyers: Anton Rowe or Felecia Rowe, who will work through your situation through a free consultation, night or day.