How Pre-existing Injuries Affect Personal Injury Claims

Generally speaking, none of us has 100% perfect health.  This is particularly true as we get older.  Our bodies, in areas such as our spine and back, begin to “degenerate” as part of the normal aging process.  Insurance companies attempt to use this against folks who may get injured through the negligence of someone else.  However, the law in North Carolina and other states is designed to protect people from the insurance companies unreasonable attempt to down play the impact of an injury because of an existing health condition.  We all have them, so don’t let an existing condition discourage you from seeking legal assistance.

Insurance companies like to blame past injuries and conditions for current aches and pains in an attempt to reduce the payout amount. This flips the normal role and the injured person must now show that pre-existing conditions either did not affect their new injury or that their pre-existing conditions worsened because of the accident.  Pre-existing conditions often help explain why someone got hurt in what on the surface may appear to be a minor accident. For example, someone with a bad back may suffer devastating injuries when hit at slower speeds from behind in a car.  It’s not their fault they were hit, they should receive fair compensation for how the crash changed their life.

What is a Pre-existing Injury or Preexisting Condition?

Preexisting Injuries

The legal definition of a pre-existing condition is a condition that existed before the current condition. These conditions can be mental, emotional, or physical. The most common pre-existing conditions may not likely affect your current injury, but that won’t stop insurance companies from trying to make them the proverbial scapegoat. But, despite the legal complications that may arise due to pre-existing conditions, it is still important to disclose all medical conditions and injuries when making a claim.

Why You Should Disclose Prior Injuries

Victims should disclose all pre-existing conditions and injuries regardless of how related they seem to the current injuries. The insurance company’s attorneys can severely harm the plaintiff’s credibility if they failed to disclose pre-existing injuries, especially those affecting the same part of the injured person’s body. By not mentioning or by minimizing the effects of a serious prior injury, the legitimacy of the plaintiff’s current injuries could come into question.

The same is true even if the plaintiff has not experienced any pain or received any treatment from the previous injury for a number of years. If omitted, they may be accused of blaming the current accident as the source of old injuries or conditions.

Preexisting Injury

Dangers of Not Disclosing Prior Injuries

Not only will hiding a previous condition set a plaintiff up for failure, but they may also face court sanctions for their failure to disclose them. Honesty is, as mother would agree, the best policy when it comes to disclosing pre-existing conditions in personal injury claims to your attorney.

What is Aggravation of Preexisting Condition?

A pre-existing condition may, in fact, make someone more susceptible to an injury, thus aggravating the condition. However, that does not mean the victim is not entitled to compensation for the worsened condition. Though the plaintiff will not be compensated for the pre-existing conditions, they may be compensated for the degree in which their condition worsened.

An important rule, known as the “eggshell skull rule” or “take your victim as you find him” rule, applies to all personal injury claims. This oddly named rule states that the relative frailty of the injured victim is not a valid defense against a personal injury claim.  If you cause an injury, you are responsible for all of the harms, even if there was a professional athlete, musician or artist in the vehicle and they experienced a career ending injury.

How Do You Prove Aggravation of a Pre-existing Injury?

Accident with Injuries

The evidence required to prove aggravation of a pre-existing condition varies from case to case. However, there are some sources that personal injury attorneys turn to in order to show that the plaintiff’s pre-existing condition has been aggravated.

Medical Records

Prior medical records serve as an excellent, reliable source to compare current or post-accident medical records. If the plaintiff can demonstrate a significant increase in pain, medication, doctor visits, or therapy than before the accident, it will support their claim of aggravation.

Witnesses to Injury

People who can testify to a change in the plaintiff’s condition after the accident or harmful event. The people who know the plaintiff best are in a better position than anyone else to describe the impact a crash or accident has on the injured person.  Family, friends, employers, coworkers and neighbors can all provide a jury valuable information regarding the impact of an injury. Who better to describe what they have seen the injured person experience?

Anyone the plaintiff has hired to make up for their injuries, such as an in-home care nurse, gardener or handyman, can also serve as a good witness. The new need for their services also supports a change in condition.

Preexisting Medical Injury Employment Records

A change in work attendance, productivity, or position can also help prove a change of condition. If the plaintiff rarely missed work before the accident but has missed many days since, that is evidence of an aggravation of a pre-existing injury. Or, if the plaintiff had a physical job but had to transition to a sedentary or less physically demanding job, that also serves as good evidence.

Change in Physical Activities

It can also be helpful to provide proof that the plaintiff has had to give up physical activities or hobbies like hiking, going to the gym, playing sports, etc. Canceled gym contracts, testimonies from hiking buddies, and so on can attest to their change in physical activity.

Is It Worth Pursuing Compensation if I Have a Preexisting Condition or Aggravate an Existing Health Issue?

Whether or not it’s worth it depends on your individual case. But, in general, you should not be discouraged from pursuing compensation if you have a pre-existing condition.

Contact A Personal Injury Lawyer

If you have been injured or further injured by another’s negligence in Western North Carolina, you should request a with the Asheville personal injury attorneys at Fisher Stark, P.A. By discussing your claim, they can help you determine if you have a case worth fighting.