How Pre-Existing Conditions Affect Personal Injury Claims
June 12, 2023
Jane saw a chiropractor for low back pain before she was injured in a car accident, but now the pain is more frequent and severe. Joe had a knee replaced a few years ago, but he’s having a difficult time walking after slipping and falling at the grocery store. Mary was diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer during the past year. Since a truck rear-ended her car, she’s experiencing neck pain and frequent headaches.
What do all these examples have in common? Each person had a pre-existing health condition before they were injured due to someone else’s negligence. If they pursue personal injury claims, how will their pre-existing condition affect their chances of receiving a fair financial settlement? Just as with any legal question, the answer depends on the specific circumstances surrounding your individual case.
It's key to remember that, while an at-fault party may not be financially responsible for what was wrong with a personal injury victim beforehand, they should still be held legally liable for any damages they cause. Seasoned attorneys like ours at Ratton Law Group PC not only know the difference—they can distinguish the pre-existing from the new and build a case for fair compensation. If you have been injured in an accident in Detroit, Michigan, don’t let a pre-existing condition keep you from getting what you deserve. Contact us for the skilled advocacy you deserve.
What Are Pre-Existing Medical Conditions?
Pre-existing medical conditions include any diagnoses of illness or injury you received prior to the accident which is the subject of your personal injury claim. Let’s return to our previous examples: Jane’s lower back pain, Joe’s knee replacement, and Mary’s cancer history are all pre-existing medical conditions. However, their pre-existing conditions are irrelevant unless they are related to their accident injuries.
Mary’s breast cancer has nothing to do with her whiplash injuries caused by the operation of the truck that rear-ended her. Joe’s new knee and Jane’s prior low back pain are relevant, but they don’t void the responsibility of the negligent parties to their accidents.
How Does a Pre-Existing Condition Affect My Injury Claim?
When filing an insurance claim after an accident, you will have to specify the injuries you are demanding compensation for and provide evidence of causation. In other words, if you claim your neck was injured in the accident, you will need to submit documentation that ties that injury to the subject accident. Such documentation is required for any personal injury claim, but related pre-existing injuries make supplying evidence more complex.
The evidence will need to support your claims of an aggravation of a pre-existing condition or new injuries separate from any related pre-existing condition.
For example, Jane has been receiving chiropractic treatment for low back pain for a year prior to the crash. She had been diagnosed with a degenerative disc in her lumbar spine, and the treatment addressed inflammation of the surrounding tissues and improved her range of motion. However, after the crash, the chiropractic treatment no longer relieved her pain and disability. An orthopedic surgeon recommends a discectomy to address these issues since non-surgical intervention is now ineffective due to the crash. The negligent driver should be financially responsible for the aggravation of a pre-existing injury and the medical intervention now required to improve it.
In Joe’s case, his total knee replacement restored his mobility and eliminated his knee pain. The fall caused new injuries to that joint by displacing or damaging some of the hardware and surrounding tendons and tissues. In this case, the negligent party is financially responsible for those damages because they are new injuries he otherwise would not have suffered.
How Do Insurance Companies Handle Pre-Existing Conditions?
The first move an insurance company will make when you file a personal injury claim is to assert that you suffered no aggravation of existing conditions or new injuries in the accident. Adjusters always seek out evidence of pre-existing conditions as leverage to undervalue your claim or to deny it outright.
However, there is a legal theory referred to as the “eggshell plaintiff” that comes into play in these personal injury claims. According to this theory, the insurance company must take the plaintiff as they are and compensate them for any aggravated and new damages their insured caused by their negligence. Just because Joe had already had a bad knee doesn’t mean the insurance company can avoid paying for the new damage wrought by its insured. And, because Jane was already receiving treatment for low back pain, doesn’t mean the negligent driver isn’t responsible for making her condition infinitely worse.
What Are the Best Strategies for Pursuing a Claim with a Related Pre-Existing Condition?
The best defense of your personal injury claim is a good offense. And a good offense is disclosing related pre-existing medical conditions from the outset. Not only is this the honest approach, but it will help you avoid revelations later that may harm your claim.
Another strategy is to receive proper medical treatment for new and aggravated injuries. That way, your treating physicians can document the status of the pre-existing condition and how the accident affected it.
In any case, the best strategy is to always begin by hiring a personal injury attorney who has experience in representing clients with pre-existing conditions. Your attorney can guide you through the process and make sure that you take the steps necessary to document your claim.
Let an Experienced Attorney Be Your Guide
Of course, pursuing a personal injury claim when you have a related pre-existing condition is more difficult than it would be without the condition. At Ratton Law Group PC, seeking justice in complex cases is a challenge we never shy away from. When our clients deserve compensation for damages caused by a negligent party, we always work hard to secure their ideal result.
If you have been injured in an accident in Detroit, Michigan, and worry about how your pre-existing condition will affect your personal injury claim, call us at Ratton Law Group PC. Our team is made up of former medical professionals. We’re ready to put our experience to work and fight for you.