One of ICBC’s biggest arguments is to point to a pre-accident health issue and suggest that most, or all, of your current problems are attributable to that pre-accident health issue and not to the car accident. However, the law is generally against ICBC on this defense because you need only prove that the car accident caused or contributed to your current problems. You do not have to prove that the car accident was the sole cause of your problems but rather, just a “material” contributing factor.
In other words, ICBC cannot argue that because the accident was one of many causes to your injuries you are not entitled to full compensation for those injuries. The car accident need only be one of many material causes to your injuries.
As a result, the courts generally put little weight on the pre-accident problems that ICBC is able to point to unless the pre-accident problems are ongoing in the period leading up to the accident, or are the type of problems that would have developed further in any event, without the accident.
In fact, in some cases pre-accident health concerns can improve your case. If you have an increased susceptibility to injury and have suffered more severe injuries than the average person would in the same accident, ICBC gains no advantage by pointing this out. The legal doctrine for this is called the “Thin Skull” rule.
Basically, the at-fault motorist takes the victim as he/she finds that person. It is no defense to argue that the at-fault motorist should not pay as much because of a person’s susceptibility to injury.
The pre-accident problems become an advantage for ICBC if ICBC can argue a “Crumbling Skull” scenario. This is where the Court finds that you would have still had certain problems irrespective of whether the accident occurred. Again, if there is no history of problems in close proximity to the accident then it’s unlikely that a court would make this finding.
The other time when the pre-accident problems become an advantage for ICBC is if the pre-accident problems are ongoing at the time of the accident and some of the current problems can be attributed to those pre-accident ongoing difficulties.
Where you may create trouble is if you do not fully disclose the preaccident problems, whether in an initial statement provided to ICBC, at your doctor’s office, or when you are testifying in a lawsuit. You can rest assured that ICBC will get your pre-accident clinical records from every doctor you have seen for 5-10 years before the car accident, especially if your case becomes more than just a minor claim. Hence, the last thing you want to do is try to hide a pre-accident problem and think that you can get away with it because ICBC is almost certain to find out.
If you are caught in a lie about your pre-accident problems, even though the pre-accident health issue probably would not have made much of a difference in the lawsuit, the lie does taint your credibility and hence, affect your overall claim. Therefore, it is recommended that you err on the side of full disclosure.
In summary, in most situations, pre-accident health issues are not a significant issue in the lawsuit except if they are ongoing at the time of the accident or are progressive in nature. Full disclosure of the preaccident problem should be made to avoid any credibility issues being raised by ICBC. Any failure to fully disclose pre-accident health issues will taint your whole case.
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