Will My Preexisting Condition Affect My Personal Injury Claim?
Despite taking the necessary precautions at work or on the road, you or our loved one may still get in an accident, resulting in a life-threatening injury. If you ever suffer an injury as a result of someone else’s negligence or even intention, you can bring a personal injury claim against that person.
Personal injury law or tort law usually comes under the State’s jurisdiction. These laws allow the victim to sue the perpetrator to get compensation for the harms caused. However, as one of the top personal injury lawyers in Illinois, we have seen that filing and winning a personal injury claim is not easy.
Insurance companies spend billions – yes, billions-of-dollars – each year trying to prevent personal injury victims from getting the compensation they deserve. The insurance company for the defendant will leave no stone unturned to reduce the compensation amount to the greatest extent possible or even avoid paying it altogether.
One weapon your opposition will use to fight your claim is any your pre-existing medical condition you might have. In this post, we will talk about how your pre-existing condition can make getting full compensation for a personal injury claim complicated.
What Is a Pre-existing Condition?
A pre-existing condition is usually a medical condition or injury that existed before the one sustained in the accident. As a result of the current injury, your pre-existing condition may worsen, putting you or your loved one at higher health risk.
Importantly, even if you were not suffering from the pre-existing condition at the time of your personal injury, the insurance company may claim you were. They will hire doctors to say you were lying and that you were suffering at the time of the crash. They will scour your medical records to see if there is anything that they can exploit to help them.
Here a few common pre-existing conditions:
- Back injuries:This is a common pre-existing injury, which involves a back injury from a work-related, slip-and-fall accident, or just age. The present injury can aggravate your back pain.
- Herniated Disc or Slip Disc:This injury occurs when the rubbery disc between two vertebrae moves into the exterior casing due to an accident. It can cause numbness in arms and legs and result in back pain. Sometimes, people injury these in prior accidents and then aggravate them in the subject crash.
- Ligament Injuries: Ligament injuries are common in athletes and people performing demanding work physically. Often, knee and ankle joints are particularly at risk. In some cases, the aggravation may lead to a permanent disability.
- Degenerative Disk Disease:Everyone develops this medical condition with increasing age. It occurs when one or more discs in your spinal column start deteriorating. A personal injury may aggravate this condition, resulting in degenerative disc disease flair-ups that may reduce your ability to work.
- Neck injuries:A simple whiplash or slip-and-fall can cause a neck injury at any age. New injuries may aggravate the old ones, resulting in excruciating pain or worse.
Other pre-existing medical conditions or injuries include Fibromyalgia, joint, knee, tissue, and shoulder injuries, brain injuries such as concussions and head trauma, and arthritis.
Why Pre-existing Medical Condition Matters?
The law requires that the at-fault party needs to make the plaintiff whole. That means paying for property damages and medical expenses. The perpetrator has the responsibility to pay for the injuries he caused.
That’s why a pre-existing injury plays a critical role in determining how much compensation you will receive. The defendant’s insurance company lawyers will argue that the current accident has very little or nothing to do with your injuries. Instead, they will blame your pre-existing medical condition, in an effort to reduce your compensation as much as possible.
Does this mean you shouldn’t file for a personal injury claim if you have a pre-existing medical condition or injury? The answer is NO. You should never let a pre-existing condition stop you from filing a personal injury claim.
Understanding the Eggshell Plaintiff Doctrine
Sometimes your pre-existing condition can make you more vulnerable to an accident. For example, you might have a small pain in your back but the accident makes you have to have surgery. This is called the “eggshell plaintiff” doctrine. Your prior problems make you susceptible to an injury and when the crash happens it cracks your eggshell! You are still entitled to the fullest compensation in the state of Illinois.
As any good Illinois personal injury lawyer will tell you, even an eggshell plaintiff is entitled to full compensation. In other words, the defendant is responsible for the conditions worsened by the current accident.
Also, it doesn’t matter if your pre-existing injury came to light during the current treatment or was already evident. However, as a plaintiff, you need to prove that the aggravation is related to the accident. That’s why medical evidence is the key to winning such personal injury claims.
Your Medical Records Can Be Key
A personal injury claim involving a pre-existing medical condition can revolve around proving the connection between that you were vulnerable before and that the current accident made it worse. Medical evidence plays a critical role. While the defendant will use your medical records to disprove your claim for more compensation, you need to do the exact opposite.
Your pre-existing conditions can help the judge and the jury to see how the consequent accident has impacted your health. So, your Illinois personal injury attorney will need to talk to your doctors and healthcare personnel to develop an objective view of the connection between your pre-existing and current injuries.
Make sure to share your full medical history and all documentation with your lawyer as soon as possible. Also, maintain the record of your present medical bills and documents. If you are left with a permanent injury, share those details as well.
The following details are especially crucial for getting your claim:
- The body part affected by the old and new injuries
- The time and speed of your recovery from the old injury
- The time passed between both injuries
Being honest can help strengthen your case. Don’t lie about your pre-existing conditions or provide false documentation. Also, don’t hide any previous injuries as you may have to face court sanctions for hiding facts.
Don’t Sign Medical Release Forms by Yourself
Just like you shouldn’t hide any previous injuries, you shouldn’t share any of your medical records with the opposition without talking to your lawyer. Insurance companies will always offer you as little compensation as possible. They will always argue that your prior injuries, no matter how small or unrelated, were the true cause of your conditions.
The insurance adjuster will often ask you to sign a release forms for your medical records and bills. They will make it sound as though they are doing you a favor. However, they will use your medical records to build their case against you.
It is really important to keep the following in mind:
- You are never required to sign any medical release forms provided by the insurance company. Don’t do it!
- Demand copies of every record the insurance company obtains.
- Consult a top personal injury attorney before signing any documents or release forms.
Let your attorney gather the necessary medical evidence and witnesses for the case.
Pre-existing Injuries and Workers’ Compensation
Even if you have a pre-existing injury resulting from a work-related accident, you are still entitled to receive compensation for a personal injury claim that results in aggravating your old health issues.
However, if you are making a workers’ compensation claim and have a pre-existing medical condition, things can get a little tricky. If the present injury is not related to your previous ones, you can still receive full workers’ compensation benefits.
How Do You Ensure Your Claim Goes Through?
As you can see, a personal injury claim involving a pre-existing medical condition or injury is complicated. Insurance companies analyze your old and new medical records to show your current problem is not new.
So, you need to find the best personal injury attorney in Illinois who has an excellent track record of handling such cases. Make sure to talk to your lawyer freely about your case to know about the various legal options you have. Most lawyers offer free initial consultation.
It is safe to say that you can file a personal injury claim even if you have a pre-existing medical condition or injury. Hopefully, the points we have discussed in this post will help you understand how your pre-existing condition will affect your case. Each case is different, however, so don’t take any decision without consulting a good personal injury lawyer.
At Dixon Law Office, we are in the business of helping our clients get the justice they deserve. We do this by listening to our clients and then fighting hard to get them the compensation they deserve.
If other lawyers have told you “You have no case,” call Dixon Law Office. We can evaluate your case and tell you how we can help you. It is what we do for you. Because when everything goes wrong, we make it right.