If you're a servicemember (active or veteran) with hearing loss, tinnitus, or some other health problem that could be linked to your use of 3M® Dual-Ended Combat Arms™ earplugs, it's fair to wonder whether some preexisting condition (whether one you actually have, or one the other side claims you have) might affect any lawsuit you decide to file.
So, what happens when the harm you're claiming from a product like 3M® earplugs aggravates a condition you have (or might have), or is difficult to distinguish from that condition? What if there's a plausible but altogether different medical explanation for your hearing loss, tinnitus, or related health problems? It can certainly complicate things, but it won't necessarily prevent you from receiving fair compensation for harm resulting from your use of defective combat earplugs that simply didn't work the way they were supposed to.
Whether you've actually received a diagnosis related to any of these conditions, or have any reason to believe that they might be relevant to your case, don't be surprised to hear 3M® (or any other defendant in your lawsuit) argue that:
When you file any kind of personal injury lawsuit, it's a well-established rule that any compensation you receive ("damages" in legalese) will not cover health conditions that existed before you were harmed or otherwise injured by the defendant's wrongdoing. However, if the at-fault party's wrongful conduct made your preexisting condition worse, the at-fault party can be held financially liable for those effects. This rule may sound simple, but given the complexity of the human body and the difficulty inherent in proving causation in certain cases, the existence of a preexisting injury or condition can make it more difficult to determine the breadth of the defendant's liability and calculate the nature and extent of the plaintiff's injuries.
Causation and Preexisting Conditions
You can theoretically try to show that your preexisting hearing-related health problems were of a certain type or severity before you used 3M®'s defective earplugs, and now your hearing problems are more acute or intense. But there is a large degree of subjectivity here, and 3M® (or any other defendant) will almost certainly argue that you're understating the impact of your preexisting condition, or that you're exaggerating the effects of any health issues that can be tied to your use of defective combat earplugs.
"Damages" and Preexisting Conditions
Even if you can prove that the defendant's wrongdoing made your preexisting hearing problems worse, it can be a challenge to establish the precise amount of damages you should receive. The biggest difficulty comes when trying to determine your more subjective and intangible damages, such as "pain and suffering." It's hard enough to calculate these losses when there is no preexisting condition. But when the earlier condition is aggravated by or is very similar to the harm resulting from the defendant's wrongdoing, the task becomes even more challenging. And whatever calculations you come up with, you can be confident the defendant will argue that your final figure is excessive. Learn more about how much a 3M® Dual-Ended Combat Arms™ earplugs lawsuit might be worth.
Despite the extra complications that can arise, a preexisting injury can sometimes make getting compensation easier, in the sense that a clear picture of your condition before the defendant's wrongdoing can make it easier to identify and measure the impact of the specific harm resulting from that wrongdoing.
For example, if you did indeed suffer a head injury in the course of your military service, there are going to be extensive medical records detailing your initial medical treatment, and follow-up care. And if nothing in those records indicates that you complained of or suffered from any hearing-related issues in the weeks and months after your head injury, it’s now far easier for you to counter the defendant's argument that your current hearing issues can be linked to something other than your use of defective 3M® earplugs.
While a preexisting condition won't doom your case, it can complicate things considerably, which is one of many reasons why working with a lawyer can be the key to a positive outcome in your 3M® combat earplugs case.