Car accident attorney looking over paperwork

Ask the Attorney: I’ve Already Been Involved in a Car Accident Lawsuit. Will It Be Held Against Me if I Try to Collect for My Injuries in a Second Accident?

By Greg Kohn

If you get injured in an automobile accident while still recovering from a prior accident, the added stress can be overwhelming. Any extended recovery period involving more pain, doctor’s appointments, and more time lost from work is bad news. The good news is that you can still recover damages for all your injuries. A New Jersey personal injury attorney is ready to help if you need it.

Understanding the Nature of Multiple Personal Injury Claims

In New Jersey, the law regarding automobile accidents is a “no-fault” scenario. In other words, it doesn’t matter who was at fault in the accident, you can recover your medical expenses and lost income from your own insurance company instead of waiting for another insurance company to decide who was at fault. Unfortunately, you will have to wait to recover damages for pain and suffering until an attorney settles the case pre-suit or even later after a lawsuit has been filed. Those are considered intangible damages.

However, it’s important to know that everyone can claim damages irrespective of their previous accident history.

The Impact of Prior Accident Claims on Current Cases

Your first accident may have caused you to have what’s called a “pre-existing condition” by the time of the second accident. Here are some common types of injuries from automobile accidents:

  • Back injuries
  • Neck injuries
  • Knee injuries
  • Headaches

Even though you may be considered what’s known as an “eggshell plaintiff” because of that prior injury, that does not inhibit the possibility of a successful second claim. An experienced lawyer will be able to rebut the arguments from the defense that your pre-existing condition means their driver was not negligent.

Legal Considerations for Multiple Accident Claims

The key ideas to consider in claims with a prior accident are negligence and liability. The other driver in your second accident may still be found negligent. The fact that you were in an earlier accident doesn’t erase the driver’s liability in the second accident. There is still a “duty of care” owed by the other driver in the second accident.

To prove that the second accident caused your injuries, you must demonstrate that you were effectively managing your old injuries and that the new accident exacerbated your condition. Your attorney will aim to get money for both injuries, the new and the old ones. This is possible under New Jersey law.

Liability in cases involving successive accidents is about pinpointing responsibility for the new and exacerbated injuries. It’s a complex process that examines the causality between the second accident and the aggravation of pre-existing conditions.

  • Documenting injury progression: A key factor is showing the state of your health before and after the second accident. Medical records, expert testimonies, and documentation of your recovery progress play pivotal roles in illustrating how the new incident worsened your condition.
  • The Eggshell Plaintiff Doctrine: This legal principle suggests that defendants must “take their victims as they find them.” If you were particularly susceptible to injury due to previous accidents, the responsible party in the second accident cannot use your pre-existing condition to diminish their liability. They are liable for all direct consequences of their actions, even if the injuries are more severe than they would have been for someone without prior conditions.

Seeking Compensation for Both Sets of Injuries

The important thing to remember here is that you are not alone, no matter how serious your injuries are from either accident. Our experienced and compassionate attorneys understand how you feel and are eager to help you get the compensation you need and deserve. Contact us today so we can evaluate your situation and help you understand your rights.

About the Author
Greg Kohn is a partner at Nagel Rice and specializes in complex civil litigation cases, including professional malpractice, personal injury, class actions, wrongful death, products liability, and commercial litigation.  He has extensive experience representing clients in both state and federal court. Greg has tried many jury trials to verdict and has recovered over $50 million in settlements and verdicts in all types of personal injury matters including automobile accidents, wrongful death cases, slip and falls, and other catastrophic injury cases. Greg also handles medical malpractice cases, involving misdiagnoses, wrongful birth, and delayed cancer diagnosis. If you have questions regarding this article, you can contact Greg here.