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Can Pre-Existing Conditions Negate Wrongful Death Claims?

September 7, 2016 | Category: Personal Injury, Wrongful Death

In general terms, a wrongful death occurs when an individual dies as a result of negligent or wrongful acts by another party. When an otherwise-healthy victim perishes in this manner, it can be a relatively simple matter to make a direct connection between the act and the resulting fatality. However, these cases become instantly more complex when the victim suffered from a medical condition that might have contributed to the death.

That said, pre-existing conditions may provide a defense in court, but they do not automatically negate claims from the victim's family.

Negligence Claims Can Become Complicated Very Quickly

Consider a recent case reported by NBC News alleging that a woman with lung cancer died prematurely due to exposure from a long-term gas leak at a neighboring property operated by SoCal Gas. In spite of her cancer diagnosis, the woman remained active, but the claim alleges that when the gas started entering her home, her condition worsened dramatically, leading to her premature death.

Still, is it possible to prove that a person with lung cancer would have fared better without leaking gas entering her home? While the gas company is likely to allege that the death relates to the woman's pre-existing condition, a Los Angeles accident attorney at our firm would initiate an aggressive investigation to answer questions such as the following:

  • What are the details of the woman's medical condition? Can her doctor provide test results and other evidence of a significantly longer expected life span or that the condition worsened once the leak began?
  • Did the neighborhood start experiencing similar issues? According to the article, a number of schools closed and other residents relocated due to the leak. Obtaining testimony from neighbors who remained in their homes and suffered for it might also provide compelling evidence.
  • Has any action been taken against the gas company? While the gas company cited tests that indicate toxicity levels below health risk levels set by law, the Governor declared a state of emergency and, according to a follow-up article, certain state senators developed a plan beyond the emergency declaration, referring to the gas leak as a local, national and international disaster.
  • Can gas leaks cause conditions that deteriorate health? It is important to obtain testimony from medical experts who can assert that gas leaks can have respiratory and other side-effects that can shorten or end lives, regardless of pre-existing medical conditions.

Developing Compelling Evidence of What-If Situations is Possible

Without a doubt, the gas company can turn to the woman's cancer diagnosis as evidence of a medical condition that is almost guaranteed to shorten her life. However, the right answers to the above questions and countless others can paint a compelling picture of how the gas leak was likely to end the woman's life even sooner. While absolute predictions of the future are virtually impossible, circumstantial evidence can effectively prove a case like this one to a judge or jury.

Cases involving pre-existing conditions call for a legal team who is dedicated to going the extra investigative mile. Call us at (844) 478-3626 / (844) 4RUDMAN, at our Los Angeles office at (213) 375-3777 or at our Studio City office (818) 769-6969.

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