Aggravation of Pre-existing Condition Examined in Florida Bus Accident Appeal


Florida car accidents not only cause new injuries for those involved in the accident, but aggravate pre-existing medical conditions as well.  Regardless of whether the injuries were old or new, all must be tied to the accident in order to recover damages.  A recent appeal examines the presence of pre-existing conditions in a rear-end collision between a bus and another vehicle that pulled out in front of it.  The case went to trial with a $1.5 million verdict in favor of the injured passenger.  The defendant appealed, arguing the instructions referring to pre-existing conditions were faulty. 

The plaintiff in the suit fell from his seat as a result of the impact and was taken to the hospital immediately after the accident for treatment.  The injured was treated and released the same day, but continued to seek treatment for lower back pain and stiffness.  X-rays revealed arthritis and a degenerative disc condition in his back.  A later MRI showed he had a three-level disc herniation in his lower back and that he suffered from diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH).  He filed suit against the defendant driver, alleging she caused the disc herniation in his lower back. 

The defendant admitted she was negligent, but denied she caused the disc-herniation and requested amount of damages.  The defendant asserted the bus passenger’s complaints of pain stemmed from his preexisting conditions.  To counter, the injured offered the testimony of a medical doctor who stated there was a reasonable degree of medical certainty the herniation was caused by the accident.  The doctor came to this conclusion after a review of his own records of examination, the MRI, and his patient’s own statements that he did not have any back problems before the collision.  The physician testified there was no way to tell from an MRI if the herniation occurred  before, during, or after the accident.  The doctor did note the injured suffered from DISH and that the injured had been dealing with DISH for a long time, which causes pain, spasms, stiffness, and other complications.  The plaintiff’s expert testified the DISH was located above the herniated discs and were unrelated to one another.

The doctors offered by the defendant as expert witnesses came to different conclusions.  The orthopedic surgeon and the diagnostic radiologist collectively testified the injured suffered a temporary sprain to his lower back and the MRI showed findings consistent with advanced degenerative changes from the injured’s DISH, arthritis, and degenerative disc disease.  The surgeon further testified the herniation seen on the MRI can only be caused by several years of the complex and could not have come from a single traumatic event.  The surgeon acknowledged this could make someone more susceptible to further injury. 

At the end of trial the injured offered jury instructions which asked the jury to consider whether the accident resulted in the aggravation of pre-existing conditions, and to determine what portion of the injury suffered by the plaintiff was caused by the accident.  The defendant argued this is improper as none of the medical experts testimony supported the aggravation of preexisting condition.  The plaintiff’s own expert stated that the DISH was above the herniated discs and was unrelated to one another.  The appellate court agreed there was no way to know whether the confusion contributed to the verdict, and therefore must be set aside.  The case was reversed and remanded for a new trial. 

The Florida car accident attorneys of Donaldson & Weston are seasoned personal injury litigators.  Our lawyers and staff will aggressively pursue all evidence and experts to better aid your case so you can get the financial relief that you need.  Call our office today for a free, confidential consultation at 772-266-555 or 561-299-3999.

More Blog Posts:

Florida District Appellate Court Reviews Future Medical Expenses in Multi-Car Accident Case, Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, November 28, 2016

Federal Circuit Court of Appeal Declines to Find Equitable Tolling in Slip and Fall Case, Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, October 21, 2016

Florida Court of Appeal Allows Injured Motorist to Pursue Additional PIP Payments to Medical Providers, Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, May 18, 2017