How Do Pre-Existing Conditions Affect A Personal Injury Claim?

Posted on July 17th, 2019
By Steven Gursten
How Do Pre-Existing Conditions Affect A Personal Injury Claim?

When you least expect it, an accident can happen that worsens a condition you already have. This can happen as the result of a vehicle crash, a slip and fall accident or a work accident. While you can’t pretend the accident caused your injury, the fact that you have a pre-existing condition doesn’t disqualify you from filing a claim.

Having a pre-existing condition does make filing a personal injury claim much more complex. For any injury, insurance companies do everything in their power to avoid paying claims.

When you have a pre-existing condition, they’re likely to make an effort to prove that your condition may have worsened even if you hadn’t been in an accident. Working with an experienced personal injury lawyer can improve your chance of having a successful outcome even if you have a pre-existing condition.

Types of Pre-Existing Conditions That May Get Worse because of an Accident

A pre-existing condition is any health condition that you had before you were in an accident. Some examples of pre-existing conditions that may get worse by being involved in an accident include:

  • Prior back injury
  • Degenerative back problems, such as arthritis or degenerative disc disease
  • Neck stiffness and discomfort
  • Joint problems, such as osteoarthritis in hips and knees
  • Bones broken in the past
  • Hernias
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cardiovascular conditions
  • Prior head or brain injury

In some cases, degenerative changes in your body may not have had any symptoms until after you experience a trauma. After your accident, a doctor may be able to determine that you had a pre-existing condition even though you weren’t aware of it until the accident. In a case like this, the accident didn’t cause degeneration, but it may have sped up the progression and caused unpleasant symptoms you weren’t experiencing before.

Disney World Death

At any time an unforeseen accident can occur that may aggravate your preexisting medical conditions. On September 18, 2016, a Tennessee man was riding the Star Tours attraction at Disney’s  Hollywood Studios.

After being on the ride, the man complained about not feeling well and collapsed. He died shortly afterwards.  His cause of death was listed as a preexisting hypertensive cardiovascular disease that was aggravated by the ride.

While the family choose not to bring suit against the company, this scenario does highlight a concern that many people have when they are involved in an accident.

Do you have a case if an accident aggravates an existing medical condition?

Unlike the Disney ride that has clear warnings about preexisting health conditions, you may be able to receive compensation if your preexisting medical condition was aggravated by a car or work accident. Yet the case can become complicated when going up against the liable person’s insurance company. Understanding how personal injury claims work in this instance, and getting legal advice about your state’s requirements, can help you get the compensation you deserve.

Do You Have a Claim?

In an accident, you may experience injuries that cause a preexisting condition to worsen. You may also have a condition that had previously healed yet has reappeared again due to the recent accident. For both of these incidents, you may be able to file a personal injury claim.

You cannot receive compensation for any injuries that existed before the accident. Yet you can receive money for any injuries currently affecting, or worsening, your preexisting medical condition.

What You Will Face with Your Claim

Depending on the state, the insurance company may be forced to pay for the damages caused by the accident as well as any preexisting injuries. Other times, the insurance company will refuse any additional payment while trying to prove that the accident did not have any impact on the preexisting medical condition. Another tactic an insurance company may use is to claim that the new injuries you experience are caused by the preexisting medical condition and not from the accident itself.

Protecting Your Claim with Detailed Medical Records

When you have a pre-existing condition before you are involved in an accident, it’s imperative that you are completely honest with your attorney. Failing to disclose a pre-existing condition increases the chance that your claim may be denied altogether.

Detailed medical records are important evidence in any personal insurance claim but are even more important when you have a pre-existing condition. Your records will need to provide evidence of your condition before the accident as well as how the accident worsened your condition.

Any doctors involved in your treatment after the accident should keep detailed records regarding the impact the accident had on your condition. Your attorney may also obtain testimony from medical experts to help prove your case.

The Eggshell Doctrine

A doctrine that may help to protect you when you have a pre-existing condition is known as the Eggshell Doctrine. This doctrine states that the court has to take the victim as is, and can’t use the frailty of the victim against them.

This means a victim in an accident can’t be denied compensation just because they were more prone to injury than the average person may have been. The circumstances of the accident may have caused very little harm to a healthy person, but if you have a pre-existing condition, it may have caused you a much more serious injury. Because of this doctrine, an insurance company can’t deny your claim just because you already had health problems before the accident.

What You Can Do

There are several steps that you can take to create a solid personal injury claim.

  • Avoid signing medical authorizations: An insurance company will ask for unrestricted access to your medical records. While this tactic seems like a good idea to prove that you have preexisting medical conditions, the insurance company can also use the information to discredit your claim.
  • Obtain legal assistance: A lawyer who is well versed in personal injury claims will know about all applicable laws in your state. They can protect your rights and help you receive the compensation you deserve. The lawyer can then provide the insurance company with the medical records that will not hurt your case.
  • Disclose all medical issues: While you may not think that an injury or medical  condition related to the accident, you should still inform your lawyer of  your full medical history. The lawyer can evaluate past medical records to see how the accident might have worsened your preexisting condition. They may also obtain a medical witness who can testify about your medical condition and injuries.

Although there were 63,316 personal injury cases filed in US district courts in 2013, many cases are settled out of court without having to go through a lengthy lawsuit.

When a pre-existing condition is aggravated by an accident, remember that the law is on your side. By getting help from an experienced personal injury lawyer through Taos Injury Lawyers by filling out the form on this page, you can help to ensure that your rights are protected and that you can obtain the compensation you deserve.

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