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How Do Pre-Existing Medical Conditions Affect a Personal Injury Claim?

Kyle H. Jarzmik Law
Wooden blocks with words 'Personal injury claims'

When you're dealing with a personal injury claim, one factor that can have a considerable effect on the outcome is your pre-existing medical conditions. So, what does this mean?  

A pre-existing condition is a health issue that you had before the accident that led to your current injury. Often, insurance companies use these pre-existing conditions as an excuse to deny or undervalue a personal injury claim. They might argue that your injury wasn't caused by the accident but was a result of your pre-existing condition.  

Now, it's crucial to remember that almost everyone involved in a personal injury situation, be it a car accident, slip and fall, or medical malpractice incident, may have some underlying health condition. Insurance companies might try to pin the injury on this pre-existing condition instead of the accident itself. This tactic can lead to reduced or even denied compensation for your personal injury.  

What Your Claim Needs to Prove

In any personal injury claim, establishing a clear link between the accident and the deterioration of your health is vital. To prove causation, your claim should establish the following four elements:  

  1. The defendant had a legal duty to care for the plaintiff (the injured party).  

  1. The defendant breached that duty in some manner.  

  1. This breach was the direct cause of the injury.  

  1. And finally, this injury resulted in damages or losses to the plaintiff.  

In claims where pre-existing conditions are involved, establishing this link becomes even more critical.  

This can be a challenging task, especially if your pre-existing condition is not well-documented or easily observable. You may need to provide extensive medical evidence and expert testimony to demonstrate how the accident exacerbated your existing health issue.  

While you generally can't receive compensation for injuries that existed before the accident, you may be eligible for compensation if the accident exacerbated your pre-existing condition.  

Proving this connection often demands the professional opinion of a skilled physician or a medical expert who will examine your medical history and current health to determine the impact of the accident on your pre-existing condition.  

Example Scenarios

If you're concerned about whether or not your pre-existing condition will affect your personal injury claim, it's helpful to look at some specific scenarios and see how they'd apply to your situation. Here are some examples to help you understand the potential outcomes:  

Scenario 1: Pre-Existing Condition Does Not Affect the Outcome

Consider John, who was in a car accident and sustained a back injury. He has a well-documented history of mild scoliosis, a pre-existing spinal condition. The insurance company might try to argue that John’s back pain is a result of his scoliosis and not the accident.  

However, John's doctor produced comprehensive medical records showing that, prior to the accident, his scoliosis was asymptomatic and under control. Furthermore, the medical expert testified that the traumatic event of the car accident had caused a significant exacerbation of John's back pain. Consequently, John’s pre-existing condition did not affect his claim, so he should be fully compensated for his injuries. 

Scenario 2: Pre-Existing Condition Affects the Outcome

On the other hand, let's take the case of Mary, who was involved in a slip-and-fall incident and injured her knee. She had a pre-existing condition of advanced osteoarthritis in her knees, which was already causing her significant pain and mobility limitations prior to the incident. Mary claimed that her knee pain was significantly worse after the incident.  

However, her medical records showed that her condition had steadily been deteriorating before the accident, and her doctors were unable to definitively state that the fall exacerbated her knee symptoms.  

In this case, her pre-existing condition affected the outcome, and her compensation would likely be affected as a result. 

The Role of a Personal Injury Lawyer

Tackling a personal injury claim that involves a pre-existing medical condition can be a daunting task. That's why it's so important to get help from a personal injury attorney who has extensive experience in handling these cases. An experienced lawyer understands the legal doctrines that uphold the rights of individuals with pre-existing conditions to seek damages for injuries aggravated by an accident.  

Your attorney can channel their knowledge and experience into predicting the defendant's and their insurance company's moves, keep you updated about your medical progress, and guide you in providing only pertinent medical records to the insurance adjuster.  

Get Help From an Attorney Who Cares

In my practice at Kyle H. Jarzmik Law, I've seen how pre-existing conditions can complicate personal injury claims. But I've also learned that with the right legal guidance, you can overcome these challenges and secure the compensation you deserve.  

I'm here to help you and your family navigate any civil court process after a personal injury, so don't hesitate to reach out if you're in Atlanta or anywhere throughout Georgia, including Fulton County, Cobb County, Dekalb County, Gwinnett County, Forsyth County, and Douglas County.