Pre-Existing Conditions Attorneys in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Pre-Existing Conditions With Your Personal Injury Claim
Let’s face it, few among us can say that we have never been injured, ill, or sought medical treatment for these things or some other health condition. However, when you are injured in an accident, these things may suddenly get the threatening label of “pre-existing conditions”. Suddenly the insurance company is using them to either deny your claim or significantly reduce the value of your claim. However, this position is contrary to the main theory of personal injury law; that a person at fault finds the party injured as he or she is at that time.
Pursuant to the eggshell doctrine, even if pre-existing conditions made you more vulnerable to injury in the accident. The injured party is still injured and whether the culpable party likes it or not this doctrine means that you take the plaintiff as you find them. If there was a pre-existing condition that made the claimant more susceptible to injury and, in turn, the claimant sustained an injury that someone else may not have sustained because the claimant was more vulnerable to such an injury, it does not matter. The harm the claimant sustained as a result of the accident is still compensable. The bottom line is that, regardless of your previous state of health, you are entitled to compensation for the harm you have sustained as a result of an accident caused by the negligence of another.
The trouble comes in making it clear to the insurance company that your injuries are either newly caused by the accident or existing conditions were exacerbated or made worse by the accident. Both of these things are compensable in a claim following the accident.
What will the insurance company and the defense attorney try to do? They will try to blend pre-existing conditions with injuries you claim to be caused by the accident in an attempt to confuse the situation. In this confusion, the company will hope to get out of paying you what you are actually owed on your claim. After all, like it or not, it is their job to defend and pay out less.
To prevent the defense or the insurance company from doing this, it is critical that you be clear with your treating doctors about the symptoms you are experiencing after the accident and how they differ from anything you experienced prior to the accident. After the accident, consider going to see the doctor who treated you for pre-existing conditions and who is familiar with your condition prior to the accident. Talk to this doctor about what you are feeling now, after the accident, and make sure all of this is noted in your medical records. A clear differentiation between your health status before and after the accident will help highlight the damage you have suffered as a result of the accident. Make sure that you get all of your medical records; those before the accident and those after.
What if My Accident Made a Pre-Existing Injury Worse?
Whether due to a chronic condition, an active injury that's in the process of treatment or healing, or some other factor, it's not uncommon for someone to be in less than optimal health before an accident even takes place. So, what happens when an accident aggravates an existing injury or condition? The simple answer is that it can complicate things, but it should not prevent recovery of fair compensation.
Types of Pre-Existing Injuries or Conditions
While the possibilities are almost limitless, some of the most common pre-existing injuries include:
previously broken bones
traumatic brain injury, and
strain and sprains
It's important to note that accidents don't always make pre-existing injuries worse. They can also aggravate or compound pre-existing medical conditions. Therefore, a pre-existing medical condition can enhance the effects of the accident.
Some examples are:
degenerative disc disease
When you decide to make a personal injury claim after an accident, it's a well-established rule that any money you receive will not include compensation for injuries or conditions that existed before the accident. However, if the at-fault party's negligence or other wrongful conduct made your pre-existing condition worse, then the at-fault party can be held financially liable for those effects. This rule may sound simple, but given the complexity of the human body and the difficulty inherent in proving causation in certain cases, the existence of a pre-existing injury or condition can make it more difficult to determine liability and for the basis of calculating damages.
The Big Issue: Causation and Pre-Existing Injuries
Showing that an accident caused a specific injury is typically the most challenging aspect of cases involving pre-existing injuries. You can theoretically try to show that your pre-existing back injury was of a certain type and severity before the accident, and that now it's different in terms of the nature and the intensity. There is a large degree of subjectivity and an insurance adjuster or the defendant in a personal injury lawsuit will almost certainly argue that you're exaggerating the effects of the latest accident.
Even if you can prove the accident made your pre-existing injury worse, it can be a challenge to establish the precise amount of damages you should receive. Using the above example, your damages might be the cost of prescription medication plus chiropractor medical costs. There might be some additional damages too, such as lost income from missed work, which is easily calculated. The difficulty comes when trying to determine your more subjective and intangible damages, such as "pain and suffering." It's hard enough to calculate these losses when there is no pre-existing injury. But when the earlier injury is aggravated by the accident, the task becomes even more challenging. And whatever calculations you come up with, you can be confident the person responsible for your injuries will believe your final figure is excessive.