A Cook County jury awarded $110,000 in a Chicago car accident lawsuit where the elderly plaintiff required surgery after the accident aggravated her preexisting back problems in Janice Thomson v. Kenneth W. Mueller, 08 L 11010. Despite medical records that clearly showed that Ms. Thomson had a prior history of arthritis and back pain, the plaintiff was able to secure payment for her subsequent medical treatments. The reason for this being that in Illinois, as well as many other states, juries cannot deny or limit a party’s right to damages simply based on the existence of a preexisting medical condition.
The 64 year-old plaintiff Janice Thomson had been suffering from chronic back pain for almost ten years when she was involved in a Chicago car accident. At the time of the 2006 auto accident, Thomson was the passenger in a vehicle that was rear-ended by the defendant, Kenneth Mueller. Thomson’s vehicle had been stopped prior to the impact. Following the rear-end accident, Thomson’s back pain worsened and she eventually required surgery to relieve her symptoms.
Thomson filed a lawsuit against Mueller, which alleged that her increased back pain and subsequent surgery were caused by the 2006 rear-end collision. As is the case in most rear-end accidents, the defendant driver accepted responsibility for the auto accident itself. However, Mueller did contest the nature of Ms. Thomson’s injuries and contended that her surgery was not caused by the “minor” accident.
At the heart of Mueller’s defense was evidence that Thomson had been treated for her back pain since 1998 and had been exhibiting nearly identical symptoms nearly five months prior to the auto accident. Thomson had a prior diagnosis of lumbar arthritis, which is a common cause of lower back pain. In addition, the defense pointed out that lumbar arthritis puts a lot of pressure on the lumbar vertebrae and that the plaintiff’s surgery was done to relieve this pressure.
Yet because a jury cannot limit the damages based on the presence of preexisting conditions, it would have likely received a jury instruction advising that just because an injured party already had a medical condition, if it was shown that said condition was aggravated by the rear-end collision, that that party would still have the right to recover damages as a result of new treatments that arose out of the aggravated medical condition.
The jury then ruled in favor of the plaintiff and awarded $110,000 in total damages:
-$80,000 for medical expenses,
-$15,000 for pain and suffering, and
-$15,000 for loss of normal life.
However, Ms. Thomson’s post-accident medical bills totaled $185,000; over $100,000 more than the jury awarded for medical damages arising out of the Chicago rear-end collision. Therefore, even though the jury still awarded damages towards Ms. Thomson’s back problems despite her preexisting medical condition, it did not award her the full amount of her medical expenses.
Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois car accident cases in and around Cook County and Chicago for over 35 years, in areas such as Morton Grove, Bridgeport, Blue Island, Chicago Ridge, and Lyons.
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