Many people who have been involved in car crashes, slip and falls, and other unfortunate incidents were already suffering from some type of injury or illness prior to the accident. These injuries and illnesses are known as pre-existing conditions, and they can have a huge impact on the outcome of your personal injury claim. If you are filing a claim with a pre-existing condition, it’s in your best interest to work with a Palm Harbor personal injury lawyer who can ensure you are fairly compensated.
But first, it’s important to learn how a pre-existing condition can affect your claim so you know what to expect.
CAN YOU RECOVER COMPENSATION FOR A PRE-EXISTING CONDITION?
Personal injury victims are entitled to compensation for injuries sustained in an accident. Victims cannot recover compensation for pre-existing injuries that were not affected by the accident. However, victims are entitled to compensation for pre-existing injuries that were aggravated or exacerbated by the accident. If a pre-existing injury is affected by an accident, compensation is only awarded for the aggravation or exacerbation of the pre-existing injury.
For example, let’s say a woman suffers a lower back injury while playing sports. Her doctor tells her that she will recover as long as she rests and refrains from playing sports while the injury heals. But, she is involved in a car accident several weeks later that aggravates her back injury. Her doctor informs her that the injury has become worse, so she now needs to attend physical therapy in order to recover.
In this case, the doctor has confirmed that the woman’s pre-existing injury has been affected by the accident. The doctor has also confirmed that the woman needs physical therapy now even though this treatment was not required prior to the accident. Therefore, the woman would be entitled to compensation for physical therapy and any other medical expenses related to the aggravation of her pre-existing injury.
Victims can recover compensation for lost wages and pain and suffering related to the aggravation of their injuries, too. For instance, if the same woman now needs to take time off of work while she recovers because of the severity of her back injury, she is entitled to compensation for these lost wages. The aggravation of her injuries could interfere with her daily activities and cause her a great deal of discomfort as well, so she could also be entitled to compensation for her pain and suffering.
THE ROLE OF MEDICAL RECORDS IN PRE-EXISTING INJURY CLAIMS
Medical records are typically used in personal injury claims to prove that injuries exist. But in pre-existing injury claims, medical records are used to show how the injury was aggravated or exacerbated by the accident. Comparing the results of MRIs, X-rays, CAT scans, and other diagnostic tests performed before and after the accident may make the extent of the aggravation obvious. Your doctor can provide more information by describing how your symptoms have worsened and how the aggravation has impacted your life. Your doctor can also explain why other forms of treatment are necessary as a result of the aggravation.
WHAT IS THE “EGGSHELL SKULL” RULE?
The so-called “eggshell skull” rule often comes into play in personal injury cases involving pre-existing conditions. According to this rule, the at-fault party cannot use the victim’s fragile condition to avoid liability. Basically, this rule ensures that personal injury victims are not denied compensation solely because of their pre-existing conditions.
The best way to understand how this rule applies to personal injury claims is to consider the hypothetical case it was named after. Suppose a man with a skull as fragile as an eggshell is hit by a negligent driver. Because of the fragility of his eggshell skull, the man suffers a serious head injury in the crash. In this imaginary case, the at-fault party is still liable for the man’s injuries despite his condition. It doesn’t matter that the man’s head trauma was only severe because of his pre-existing condition. It also does not matter that the at-fault party was unaware of the man’s pre-existing condition prior to the accident. The eggshell skull rule states that the at-fault party is still fully responsible for the man’s injuries.
Because of this rule, victims should never fear that their pre-existing condition will prevent them from recovering the compensation they deserve.
SHOULD YOU TELL THE INSURANCE COMPANY ABOUT YOUR PRE-EXISTING CONDITION?
Having a pre-existing condition will make your personal injury claim more complicated, so it may be tempting to keep the details of this condition to yourself. But, it’s not wise to conceal information about your pre-existing medical conditions. Being dishonest about your medical history could affect your ability to recover compensation, so honesty is the best policy.
You should disclose your pre-existing conditions to your attorney before telling the insurance company. Tell your attorney about every one of your pre-existing conditions even if you believe some are not relevant to your case. Your attorney will decide if an insurance company needs to know about each pre-existing condition. If a condition is relevant to your case, your attorney will send the appropriate medical records to the insurance company.
HOW CAN A PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY HELP?
It’s never easy to recover compensation for your injuries, but a pre-existing condition complicates matters even further. The insurance company will look for every excuse to lower the value of your claim or reject it altogether, so the adjuster may argue that the accident did not affect your injuries. For this reason, it’s in your best interest to seek legal representation from an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. A skilled attorney can present a strong case to the insurance company that clearly shows how your injuries were aggravated by the accident.
If you have a pre-existing injury that was aggravated in an accident, let Palm Harbor personal injury lawyer Jeffrey Hensley fight for the compensation you deserve. Jeffrey Hensley will protect your rights and ensure that a pre-existing injury does not prevent you from securing compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.