How Does a Pre-Existing Injury Affect My Accident Claim?
Many people live with all types of aches and pains. These pains may be due to prior accidents or just to the wear and tear of your body as you age, which are generally referred to as pre-existing conditions. If an accident makes your pre-existing condition worse, you may be able file a personal injury claim for exacerbation of the condition. You may also be able to file a personal injury claim if your prior injury was previously resolved, but now the new accident brings that prior trauma back to life. However, you may not be able to seek damages if the accident did not affect your pre-existing condition and you do not have any other injuries.
In one recent example of the severity of aggravated injuries, rock star performer Ozzy Osbourne recently announced that he had to cancel his music tour because a fall aggravated a prior back injury. Mr. Osbourne fell in 2019 as he got up to go to the bathroom. The fall aggravated his neck and back which he injured in a previous ATV accident. Even after three operations, stem cell treatments, numerous physical therapy sessions, and even groundbreaking Cybernics (HAL) Treatment, Osbourne says his body is still weak.
The difference between his body after the initial ATV accident, when he was able to perform and tour, and his body after the fall in his home that prevented him from touring, is quite striking. His current spinal cord injuries have been described as having “devastating neurologic deficits and disability,” which highlights how a previously healed injury can be significantly aggravated from what may appear to be a minor accident.
Common types of pre-existing conditions
A car accident, truck collision, fall on someone’s property, medical malpractice, nursing home neglect, and product defects can easily aggravate any type of prior injury, including, but not limited to:
- Neck pain;
- Shoulder pain;
- Broken bones;
- Disc herniations and other types of spinal injuries; and
- Traumatic brain injuries.
Other types of medical conditions that might be aggravated or that may cause your current injuries to be more difficult to treat include arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, and fibromyalgia.
What type of medical review is required for aggravation of pre-existing injuries?
Insurance companies generally want to pay as little as possible for injuries that a person suffered from their insured’s negligence. They will explore whether you had any prior injuries through interrogatories, depositions, and reviewing your medical history. There are questions they can properly ask but as your personal injury lawyer, we work to make sure they don’t ask inappropriate questions.
If your new injuries are an aggravation of your prior injuries, then review of your medical history becomes even more important. We will work with your current doctors to help determine whether your new back pain, neck pain, spinal cord damage, burns, or other injuries are either unrelated to any pre-existing conditions or whether the current accident aggravated those prior injuries. In addition to speaking with your current physicians, we may speak with the doctors who treated your prior injuries to better understand your entire medical history.
Sometimes, the insurance company will request an independent medical review so they can assess your current and prior injuries to determine how those respective injuries relate to each other and the accident.
How are damages assessed for my injuries?
Generally, we demand compensation for all our client’s medical expenses to diagnose and treat their current injuries. These expenses include surgeries, rehabilitative care, medications, assistive devices, and any other health costs. We also demand compensation for physical pain and emotional suffering. These damages are in addition to any lost income, property damage, and other permissible damages.
- From a theoretical point of view, liable defendants must pay for any injuries the defendants caused. However, if you have a pre-existing condition or injury, that can complicate the damages calculation. While there is no precise answer or formula as to how a pre-existing condition will impact an award of damages, we strive to get the best recovery allowed under the law for our clients. For example, we can use the following to help show that the defendant is liable for your injuries: Obtaining reports from your current doctors assessing the status of your current injuries and pain;
- Showing that your prior injuries healed or that you stopped treatment;
- Showing how well you were functioning, even with your pre-existing conditions, prior to the new accident, such as showing that you were working, enjoying your family, exercising, and enjoying life; and
- Reviewing and countering any reports by the defendant’s experts.
In personal injury cases, injuries suffered by plaintiffs may be completely unrelated to any prior injuries. However, when injuries do relate to pre-existing injuries, the pain and suffering can actually increase exponentially because many victims now have to live with the trauma of their original injuries reoccurring or worsening, and the crushing frustration that a terrible part of their lives they thought was over has now returned.
At Harris Lowry Manton LLP, our Savannah personal injury lawyers are ready for all the arguments insurance companies and defense lawyers make to try to minimize your claim – including pre-existing conditions. To discuss your right to compensation including compensation for aggravation of prior injuries call us or complete our contact form to schedule a free consultation.
One of the nation’s top trial attorneys, Jeff Harris is an award-winning litigator who handles high-profile, complex cases across a wide variety of practice areas. He excels at securing justice for clients who have been seriously injured or killed, holding responsible parties accountable for their actions as well as their negligence.
Read more about Jeffrey R. Harris here.