Can a Pre-Existing Condition Affect a Personal Injury Claim?
Chances are that most people reading this have had some type of injury in the past. Does this mean that you are not able to recover the compensation you need for a current injury you sustain? When you have been injured due to someone else’s negligence or intentional act, you may not have even considered how a prior injury or pre-existing condition may affect your claim. Insurance companies often try their hardest to reduce the compensation paid to an injured party. One of the most common tactics is to attempt to deny or discount claims when the injured party has some sort of pre-existing injury or condition.
Fortunately, insurance companies cannot wholly deny these claims when their insured’s actions cause an aggravation or exacerbation of a pre-existing injury or condition. Injury compensation depends on the changes in the victim’s condition before versus after the accident. Speak with a personal injury lawyer to learn how a pre-existing condition affects your personal injury claim.
The Importance of Disclosure to Credibility
When meeting with medical professionals or legal teams after a personal injury accident, it is important for the accident victim to be honest and disclose prior injuries and any current ones you have been dealing with. Full disclosure increases the chance a victim receives both proper treatment and a fair settlement.
Before examination, a doctor or medical professional always requests medical history, because this information affects treatment strategy. Hiding the existence of prior injuries can not only negatively affect your personal injury case but will also influence your medical care and could put your health and well-being at risk. Proper treatment relies upon full disclosure.
The defense side in a lawsuit will conduct a thorough investigation and will uncover these prior injuries anyway. Any surprises during hearings and trial can cause the judge and jury to suspect the legitimacy of your current injuries. When meeting with your personal injury lawyer, remember that a prior injury or a pre-existing condition affects your personal injury claim. If an accident re-aggravates past injuries, a lawyer will include those damages in a personal injury claim.
What Is a Pre-Existing Injury?
A pre-existing condition is a medical illness or injury that you already have at some point in time. This term usually refers to conditions that a patient has before he or she begins a new health care plan. During the personal injury litigation process, pre-existing conditions refer to the illnesses or injuries that you have before your accident.
Common Pre-Existing Injuries Include the Following:
- Arthritis and weak bones
- An old back or neck injury
- Broken bones
- A brain injury
- Pulled muscles
- Torn ligaments
- Chronic pain
Eggshell Plaintiff Rule in California
Under the “eggshell plaintiff” rule, a personal injury victim must be considered as-is. Defendants in California personal injury cases are not any less liable for injuries simply because the plaintiff was weakened or vulnerable to being injured or re-injured. This means compensation cannot be denied simply because a pre-existing condition made it more likely that the person would suffer an injury or that the injury is worse than if the pre-existing injury did not exist.
Prior Injuries Give an Opportunity for Comparison
Medical records are crucial pieces of evidence in personal injury claims involving pre-existing injuries. Your medical records provide details of your health at the time the accident occurred and also support how your pre-existing injury was aggravated by the accident. In this way, the existence of prior injuries can actually be helpful since there will have been a prior diagnoses, x-rays, MRIs, CAT scans or other diagnostic tests. A comparative review of the old tests and the new ones can show the extent of injury caused by the accident.
How Do Pre-Existing Injuries Affect Injury Claims?
Trusting insurance carriers outright is a recipe for disaster, even if the insurance carrier is your own that you have paid for. The stark reality is that insurance carriers are “for-profit” entities that want to make money. Anytime they have to pay out a claim, they are essentially losing money, even though clients pay premiums so that they will pay out claims when the time comes.
Insurance carriers will look for any reason to lower a settlement amount or even deny a claim altogether and will look at a person’s past for pre-existing conditions that could explain current pain and suffering. They will investigate every claim that comes to their desk and they are highly skilled at what they do. When an insurance carrier investigates a person’s past, they could find an injury that allows them to shift blame away from the accident. Insurance carriers will say that there is no new injury and that they should not have to pay out compensation.
What Should You Do If an Injury Has Aggravated a Pre-Existing Condition?
- Be Honest
As mentioned above, being honest about any previous injuries or chronic conditions is essential. By hiding or downplaying previous conditions, an injury victim may undermine their medical treatment and legal options following an accident. Full disclosure allows medical and legal professionals the ability to work with full knowledge.
- Seek Medical Attention Early
Contacting a family doctor quickly after a personal injury accident helps on both the medical and legal side. A family doctor familiar with the injury victim’s pre-existing medical conditions and prior injury history may more effectively identify differences to their patient following an accident. Every medical visit also offers medical documentation for tracking treatment results both before and after a personal injury accident.
- Consult a Personal Injury Attorney
A lawyer can work with a victim’s doctors to collect objective documentation of the injury status and treatment. Collecting all medical documentation is beneficial. Medical files provide talking points for the lawyer to discuss diagnoses and results with medical witnesses during a court trial. An injury lawyer also has the resources to hire a neutral expert witness. This expert may present the differences in a pre-existing condition or prior injury before and after an accident. An expert’s job is proving the accident victim would not be currently suffering if the accident did not occur.
You Should Still Be Able to Recover Compensation
Even if an insurance carrier is able to find a claimant’s pre-existing injuries or illnesses, this should not prevent a person from recovering compensation for a new injury or illness caused by the negligence of someone else. The existence of a pre-existing condition should not have anything to do with whether or not a person is able to recover compensation for their current condition.
Millions of individuals have had a previous illness or injury. If the existence of a pre-existing condition means that a person should not be able to recover compensation, then that means anybody who has ever been harmed before would never be able to recover compensation for current injury.
If a person sustains an injury caused by the negligent actions of another individual or entity, they should be able to recover compensation from the at-fault party or that party’s insurance carrier. This includes coverage of their medical expenses, lost wages, property damage expenses, pain and suffering damages, and more.
Should You Speak with an Attorney?
Our legal team at Duque Law Group is comprised of award-winning and nationally recognized trial lawyers who collaborate with nurses, doctors and medical experts regularly. Though we understand the nature of injuries, we are not physicians, and always encourage victims to seek treatment as soon after an accident as possible, and to follow up and heed their doctors’ advice.
Call us now at 1-877-241-9554 to learn more about your options. A free consultation is just a phone call away.