If you were injured due to another person’s negligence, you should consult with an attorney to discuss your personal injury claim. However, you should also notify your attorney of any pre-existing conditions and past injuries you have suffered. Keep reading to find out why.
Pre-Existing Medical Conditions and Your Case
Many people who seek compensation for their accident injuries might be tempted to leave out crucial information about past injuries and medical conditions.
The thinking is that this approach might make it easier to value the injuries in the absence of any other health issues which might “muddy the waters.”Unfortunately, this approach is usually unhelpful. Most people have experienced other injuries and/or suffered from various prior health conditions or even chronic illnesses during their lifetime.
It is important to be open about your injuries and medical conditions prior to the most recent event. This is because these prior injuries can significantly affect the value of your current personal injury claim.
Pre-Existing Conditions and Personal Injury Claims
The central question is whether your pre-existing condition is related to the injuries you are claiming from the recent incident or accident.
Someone with a potential personal injury claim isn’t entitled to receive compensation for injuries and conditions that are unrelated to the specific incident that gives rise to their injury claim.
For example: Jane is involved in a motor vehicle collision on January 1, 2021, and suffers injuries to her neck and back. She receives two months of treatment for muscular and ligamentous strains to her neck and back before ultimately recovering.
She consults with a personal injury attorney to file a claim related to the January 1st accident.
In the past, Jane fractured her wrist. She also has pre-existing arthritis and diabetes.
Since those previous injuries and conditions were not caused by the January 1st collision, Jane cannot seek compensation for them.
However, an injured person is entitled to receive compensation for pre-existing conditions to the degree that the accident made them worse.
This is known as exacerbation or aggravation of a pre-existing condition. It is a specific item of damages that may be claimed in a personal injury case within the Illinois Pattern Civil Jury Instructions.
The Importance of Medical Records for Those with Pre-Existing Conditions
Whether the pre-existing condition is related to the current accident or incident is a question that needs to be answered by medical practitioners.
In our example, if Jane’s medical records support that her pre-existing arthritis was made worse by the January 1st accident, then she may be able to claim the aggravation as part of her case.
The medical records are therefore the most important source of information in this regard.
An injured person’s pre-existing medical problems can sometimes be beneficial to their injury claim. The comprehensive medical history provides information that will distinguish the new injuries from the prior conditions. These medical records will also help when comparing how the new injuries aggravated or exacerbated a pre-existing condition.
Of course, this can work the other way, too.
The defense attorneys in the case will also have access to these records. They will try to find information to suggest that the pre-existing conditions are the true cause of the current complaints.
This also brings up another important point: the at-fault driver’s attorneys will also obtain your medical records in the course of litigation of a personal injury claim.
You should be completely straightforward with your medical providers and your attorneys about your medical history.
The cause of your injuries and the nature and extent of your pain and conditions should also be known to your medical providers. Once properly documented, this information could be helpful during litigation.
Pre-Existing Conditions and Settlement Valuations
Depending on the contents of the medical records, a pre-existing medical condition or injury may affect the value of a personal injury claim.
A pre-existing condition can be detrimental to your personal injury claim if it is unclear what injuries resulted from the accident.
For example, if Jane was actively treating for neck pain at the time of the accident on January 1st, defense attorneys would likely argue that the accident did not cause any new injury.
If the medical records do not support an aggravation or if the treatment course doesn’t change at all following the collision, then her injury claim is weaker even if the collision is specifically referenced in the medical records.
A pre-existing condition that is related to the subject incident can also work in your favor.
For example, if Jane had a prior injury to her neck that was not fully healed and for which she was still getting treatment, that might increase the value of her personal injury claim.
Jane’s attorney can argue that she was more susceptible to a re-injury of those same areas and the new collision may have aggravated the underlying injury and made it worse.
This is an example of a legal concept known as the Eggshell Plaintiff Rule.
The Eggshell Plaintiff Rule and Pre-Existing Conditions
Imagine a person whose skull was as thin as an eggshell. Obviously, that would mean that this person was extremely susceptible to injury. If someone were to negligently cause injury to this person, even though they had no knowledge of the person’s susceptibility to injury, they could be held liable for all the injuries they cause. This is regardless of whether any other person would not have had such extensive injuries.
Under this rule, the victim’s condition prior to the at-fault parties’ actions does not matter. The at-fault party takes their victim as they find them.
The rule applies to all personal injury claims. It states that the frailty of the injury victim is not a valid defense against a claim. The at-fault party is liable for all injuries resulting from their actions, even if the Plaintiff is unusually susceptible to injury.
The most important takeaway from this rule is that no victim should hesitate to contact an attorney if they were injured due to someone else’s negligence, regardless of the state of their health before the accident.
Compensation for Injuries Despite Pre-Existing Medical Conditions
If you or a loved one suffered an injury, consult a personal injury attorney regardless of any pre-existing medical conditions or prior injuries.A qualified attorney knows the true cost of your injury and how best to advocate on your behalf – no matter what your medical history involves.
Medical treatment and rehabilitation may be costly. You will need to ensure that you are able to cover the expenses associated with the necessary medical care.
At VanDerGinst Law, our personal injury lawyers are willing and able to fight relentlessly on your behalf for a recovery that you truly deserve.
For a free consultation, call us at 800-797-5391 or fill out the form on our website.