How Can a Pre-existing Injury Affect My Personal Injury Claim?
Pre-existing injuries, sometimes called pre-existing conditions, refer to any health issues or bodily injuries a plaintiff had prior to the event that serves as grounds for a personal injury claim. If you are involved in a slip and fall accident, a car accident, or some other event, you must evaluate what pre-existing injuries you had before pursuing a personal injury claim.
Defense legal teams and insurance companies carefully investigate claims and look for pre-existing conditions to justify denying or devaluing a claim. If you have any pre-existing conditions, it can be harder to successfully make a claim against another party. Taking steps to preserve the value of your claim will give you the best chances of obtaining a fair outcome for your circumstances.
It’s in your best interest to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer. Until you have the chance, the following overview about pre-existing injuries, the way they impact claims, and steps you should take, provides preliminary information.
What Qualifies as a Pre-existing Injury?
Any type of injury or condition would constitute a pre-existing injury if it occurred before the event that gave rise to your personal injury claim. However, some common pre-existing injuries are often associated with personal injury claims. They include:
- Broken bones. Even a healed fracture qualifies as a pre-existing injury. The other side might argue that a particular bone broke because it was weak from a previous break.
- Brain injuries. Research shows that once someone suffers a concussion or other brain injury, they are more prone to them in the future.
- Whiplash. Soft-tissue injuries to the neck can be severe and leave people with headaches and residual pain in the neck and shoulder.
- Degenerative disc disease. This condition results in loss of flexibility, pain, and weakness as discs in the spinal column deteriorate. Those with DDD sometimes suffer back injuries more easily.
This is just a small sampling of pre-existing injuries. The insurance company or legal defense team can use these arguments to fight your claim; however, you should never assume anything about your personal injury case. Pre-existing injuries do not always bar you from receiving compensation. An experienced personal injury attorney can review your case and advise on the best strategy for your situation.
The Eggshell Skull Rule in Personal Injury Claims
Although a defense legal team might try to use pre-existing injuries as a defense to your claim, the Eggshell Skull Rule makes it difficult for them. This legal doctrine requires defendants to accept the plaintiff “as-is” at the time of the event that led to the injury claim. Its name comes from the idea that someone with a skull as thin as an eggshell is more likely to suffer injuries during any type of accident. Under the Eggshell Skull Rule, the relative frailty or condition of the plaintiff does not serve as a valid defense against a personal injury claim.
If a person suffers a brain injury that another person might not in the same circumstances, the defendant is still liable for the full amount of damages if their negligence led to the injury. Even with the Eggshell Skull Rule on your side, you should know that insurance companies have no shame when it comes to using pre-existing injuries to deny or devalue a claim. If you have a pre-existing injury, you need to prepare for a long, difficult, and drawn-out claims process.
When Pre-existing Injuries Are Positive
Sometimes pre-existing injuries positively impact the outcome of a personal injury claim. A person who has suffered some sort of injury has medical records, x-rays, and other lab tests and scans that clearly show their condition before an accident. When doctors order the same scans and tests after an accident, they can show a clear change in the condition of a patient. This makes it much easier to prove the damage caused by a current injury.
Protecting Your Claim When You Have a Pre-existing Injury
Having a pre-existing injury does not cancel your eligibility for financial compensation after another party’s negligence harms you. However, your claim will be more complicated. Take the following steps to protect the value of your claim and give you the best chances of recovering maximum compensation for your injuries.
Be Careful What You Sign
One tricky tactic insurance companies use to fight personal injury claims is to coax claimants into signing a release form for medical records. You do have to provide copies of medical records related to your current claim, but you do not have to provide access to your entire medical history. Insurance companies often present forms that provide them access to a claimant’s complete medical records dating back for decades. You can be sure the insurance company will investigate your injuries and search for evidence that you were injured previously. Don’t make it easy for them. Instead, it’s best to let an attorney handle the details of your claim, review any documents, and advise you on which information you must share with the other side.
Disclose Everything to Your Lawyer
You jeopardize your entire claim if you aren’t open and honest about any pre-existing injuries when you hire a personal injury lawyer. Your attorney needs to know the facts, so they can build the best case for your circumstances. Oftentimes, this includes involving your doctor and other medical experts to prove how the accident or other event aggravated your old injury and made your condition worse.
It’s a pointless endeavor to try to hide pre-existing injuries. It’s highly likely they will surface anyway. If you fail to disclose your condition, you lose credibility with your attorney, the insurance company, the court, and other relevant parties involved in the claims process. In some cases, the court might sanction you if you intentionally hide or deny a previous injury.
Follow Your Doctor’s Orders
Prevailing in a personal injury claim when you have a pre-existing injury requires working closely with your doctor. As mentioned above, he or she can be a valuable asset to help prove your case. It’s in your best interest to never miss an appointment or treatment and follow orders explicitly. When the insurance company and/or their lawyers question your doctor, he or she can share that you have done everything possible to expedite the healing process. When a patient keeps appointments and follows a treatment plan, it makes it more difficult for the other side to argue that an accident did not aggravate an old injury.
Let an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney Help
Claims that involve pre-existing injuries are notoriously complex, but they are not lost causes. Experienced attorneys understand the applicable laws and know how to handle questionable tactics employed by insurance companies. You should not have to cope with increased medical bills, missing work, and the other negative aspects that come when a negligent party harms you.
The skilled legal team at Charbonnet Law Firm has helped clients throughout the Greater New Orleans area and Louisiana recover compensation for damages, even when pre-existing injuries have been involved. Contact us today online or at (504)294-3910 to discuss your injuries, the impact they have had on your life, and the best strategy to recover the maximum compensation commensurate with your injuries.