The manner in which a claimant handles a pre-existing condition can greatly affect the outcome of an injury claim. It is imperative that clients disclose all previous injuries to their attorney at the beginning of any casework. Failure to disclose this information can discredit the plaintiff’s word and drastically reduce the value of the overall claim.
Most everyone has some pre-existing condition in his or her medical history, whether it is from an earlier car accident or an old college sporting injury. It is important to remember, however, that if the pre-existing condition was not causing you any discomfort prior to the car accident, the person at fault for the accident is still fully responsible for injuries you sustained in the accident, or to any degree the accident worsened your pre-existing condition.
If your pre-existing condition was causing you discomfort at the time of the accident, the insurance company does have the right to reduce the value of your settlement. However, you are still entitled to compensation equivalent to the difference in pain level before and after the accident.
Advantages to Pre-existing Injuries
Even though a pre-existing condition has the potential to complicate a personal injury claim, there are also distinct advantages. If the claimant has suffered a pre-existing injury, they may be in a weakened state, thus making them more prone to injury, and worsening the pre-existing condition. This, so-to-speak, “soft-shell” plaintiff argument is especially effective in a low-impact car accident where a jury may question how the accident could have caused the claimed injury.
The opportunity for a car accident attorney to compare past medical records with current ones to objectively substantiate how the accident aggravated the plaintiff’s pre-existing condition is another advantage. Based on diagnostic tests taken years apart, a medical expert can testify how the accident adversely affected the pre-existing condition. Clinical records can also be used to compare pain level, extent of necessary care, or disability before and after the accident. If a plaintiff has become permanently disabled, and at least a degree of that is attributable to the pre-existing injury, a medical expert can ascertain the extent to which the accident worsened the disability.
By using medical records, an attorney can use your pre-existing injury to your advantage. By showing that your weakened condition made you more susceptible to new or worsened injuries, they can assist you in recovering the appropriate amount of compensation to which you are entitled.