How Do Pre-Existing Conditions Affect Personal Injury Claims?
In personal injury cases, “pre-existing condition” can be a heavy term. A pre-existing condition is, in short, a health condition the injured party already had prior to the accident that caused their most recent injury. A pre-existing condition is also one of the most common reasons insurance companies cite when denying or undervaluing a personal injury claim.
So how do pre-existing conditions affect personal injury claims? A falsehood many insurance companies lead injured victims to believe is that most people have a completely clean bill of health before an accident. That’s simply not true. Almost everyone who is involved in a personal injury accident—whether a car accident, slip and fall, or medical malpractice incident—has some kind of underlying health condition.
In many instances, an insurance company will point to this underlying health condition as the origin of the injury, rather than the accident. In personal injury law, if the injury existed prior to the accident and was unaffected by it, the at-fault party is not liable for it. By denying that the injury was caused by the accident, the insurance company is able to significantly reduce (or altogether avoid) compensation for your personal injury.
Yet, there is an important distinction that must be made. As an accident victim, it’s true that you are generally not eligible for compensation for injuries that existed prior to the accident. You may, however, be eligible for compensation for injuries that existed prior to—but were worsened by—the accident.
This is a complicated area of personal injury law. When a pre-existing condition is a factor in your personal injury claim, the professional testimony of a skilled physician is often required to determine the status of your condition before and after the accident. This involves thorough research into your medical history and current state of health.
It takes a personal injury attorney with extensive experience to successfully navigate this kind of personal injury case. At Pittman Roberts & Welsh, PLLC, we have successfully guided many injured victims through the challenges of a pre-existing condition—and have obtained full and fair compensation on their behalf. If we decide to take your personal injury case, you can be sure that we will use the full extent of our expertise to help you win the compensation you need for recovery after injury.
Don’t Let a Pre-Existing Condition Stop You From Seeking Recovery
Having a pre-existing condition should not preclude you from obtaining the compensation you need to cover your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. Although personal injury claims can be more difficult when a pre-existing condition is being contested, a skilled attorney will not see this as a roadblock to your recovery.
There are legal doctrines that recognize that individuals with pre-existing conditions are still entitled to seek damages for injuries suffered in an accident—even if their condition contributed to the injuries. The most famous example of this is the “eggshell plaintiff.” This theory imagines a person whose skull is as fragile as an eggshell. If this person is injured through another party’s negligence (for example, by a drunk driver), their skull will shatter much more easily than the average person. In this way, their pre-existing condition affected the injuries they suffered in the accident. But the drunk driver is still liable for all the injuries they caused to the eggshell plaintiff through their negligent actions.
In a personal injury case, the at-fault party may be obligated to cover expenses associated with the injuries the victim suffered due to negligence. But the at-fault party has no obligation to cover injuries that previously existed and were unaffected by the accident. Insurance companies use this principle to avoid payments. If the insurer can prove that your injury pre-existed and was unaffected by the accident, they are not obligated to compensate you for the costs.
Protect Your Rights After Personal Injury
If you are filing a personal injury claim and have a pre-existing condition that may complicate your claim, there are a few important things to remember:
Inform your personal injury lawyer of your pre-existing condition at your first meeting.
Your lawyer needs to know about your health condition so they can anticipate the actions of the defendant and their insurance company. Keep good lines of communication open with your attorney and update them on your medical progress. This will allow your personal injury lawyer to take the appropriate measures to protect your claim.
Seek medical treatment immediately after your injury.
Seeking immediate medical attention can help prove that your injuries were a result of your accident. Keep careful documentation of all doctor’s appointments, test results, physicians’ notes, prescription medications, and any other information about your medical care.
Do not give an insurance adjuster access to your medical records without speaking to your lawyer first.
Part of the job of an insurance adjuster is to find reasons to lower payout amounts, thus saving the company money. If an adjuster can find any data in your medical records to indicate that your injury existed prior to the accident, it can be used to refute the connection between the accident and injury. Never allow an insurance adjuster full access to your medical history. Only provide the company with the medical records directly related to your case. Speak to your lawyer if you have any concerns about the questions an insurance adjuster is asking you.
Partner With a Jackson Personal Injury Firm With Experience
If you were injured in an accident and the insurance company is using a pre-existing condition to deny your claim, you are not out of options. As experienced injury lawyers, we know the obstacles to maximum compensation and how to avoid them. We’re proud of the verdicts and settlements we’ve achieved on behalf of our clients, and we will work hard to do the same for you.
Contact our office to discuss your case with an attorney from our team. We’ll begin with a free case evaluation to explore your legal options.