Could a Preexisting Medical Condition Limit the Value of Your Injury Claim?

small clipboard with preexisting condition written down
small clipboard with preexisting condition written down

Sometimes people who get injured in an accident are already dealing with health problems. For example, you might have been dealing with back problems before the accident and your existing medical issues may have been aggravated in the crash.

It can be argued that someone with an existing injury was more likely to get hurt in an accident, or that the accident was more likely to cause a severe medical problem. However, insurance companies cannot use your preexisting illness against you when seeking compensation for a new injury.

Insurers would like you to believe you cannot seek full compensation if you had a preexisting condition. That is why talking to the insurance company about the accident is a bad idea. It is better to talk to an attorney with significant experience in injury cases first. Insurance companies want to deny or underpay claims, but attorneys are interested in you recovering all the compensation you need.

Friedman, Domiano and Smith’s Cleveland-based personal injury lawyers are ready to help you take legal action, with no upfront costs.

Contact us today to schedule a free consultation. 216-621-0070

Examples of Preexisting Injuries

Any injury or illness that existed before the accident is considered a preexisting medical condition. For example, you may have been recovering from a broken leg or knee injury when the accident happened. Other examples of preexisting conditions that may come up in an injury claim include:

  • Concussion
  • Head injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Ligament damage
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Breathing problems like asthma
  • Arthritis
  • Whiplash or other injuries to the neck
  • Fractures
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • Cancer

What Impact Could a Preexisting Condition Have on Your Claim?

This is an important question and injured victims often have a lot of misconceptions about the answer to this question. Unfortunately, victims are often misled by insurance companies that push to settle claims for as little as possible.

It is a bad idea to make assumptions about your injury claim without first talking to an experienced injury lawyer.

Eggshell Skull Rule

Insurance companies would have you believe your claim is worth less or can be denied because of your preexisting injury. Their argument is that people who are already injured are more likely to get hurt. There may also be a greater likelihood that an accident will cause more severe injuries if you were already dealing with another medical condition.

However, under the “eggshell plaintiff” rule, insurance companies are required to evaluate injured victims as they are. They cannot devalue or deny a claim because the person was already hurt. In other words, the frailty of the victim is not a valid defense.

The frailty of the victim does not excuse the negligence of another party that caused a new injury. 

Compensation for Aggravation of an Existing Injury

You can obtain compensation for damages caused by the injury you suffered in the accident, but you cannot recover compensation for your preexisting condition.

However, your existing injury might get aggravated in the accident. If you can prove you have developed new or worsening symptoms, you may be able to include this in your claim for compensation. You will need detailed medical evidence that proves your new or worsening symptoms are not part of the regular progression of your condition.

Informing Your Attorney and Doctors About an Existing Injury

Despite the eggshell plaintiff rule, you need a strong case to counter the insurance company’s attempts to deny or undervalue your claim. Your attorney needs to know about your preexisting condition so he or she will be prepared for the insurance company to use it against you. Your attorney also needs to know in case your preexisting injury was aggravated in the accident.

The insurance company is probably going to find out about your existing illness. If you do not inform your attorney, he or she will not be prepared for the insurance company to bring it up.

You should also be sure to inform the doctor who treats you after the accident. That way he or she can determine if your existing medical condition may have been aggravated and note it in your medical records. If aggravation of your medical condition is noted immediately after the accident, it will be harder for the insurance company to dispute this.

If you conceal your medical condition from your lawyer or your doctors, you could make it much harder to obtain full compensation for your damages.

Proving Aggravation of an Existing Injury

There are various steps attorneys can take to help validate a claim for aggravation of an existing injury. For example, you could provide proof that you needed more treatment for your injury after the accident. Your attorney might also bring in an expert witness to go into detail about your preexisting injury and explain why the accident made it worse.

It is important to keep your doctors updated on changes in your condition. Explain why things are different now than they were before the accident. Consistent reports about changes in your condition are much harder for the insurance company to dispute.

Contact Our Experienced Attorneys for Legal Help

If you have questions about seeking compensation for an injury, or you have already filed a claim and it has been denied, we are ready to help you.

Call us today to tell us what happened and learn how we may be able to help you. An initial consultation with one of our attorneys is free and comes with no obligation to hire our firm. There are also no fees while we work on your case.

Experienced attorneys. Proven results. Call us at: 216-621-0070.


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