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Can a Pre-Existing Condition Affect Your Personal Injury Claim?

If you've been injured due to someone else's negligence and have a pre-existing condition, you may wonder how this will impact your ability to seek compensation in a personal injury claim.

At Van Camp, Meacham & Newman, our personal injury lawyers have more than 30 years of experience helping those in the Pinehurst area and throughout the surrounding parts of North Carolina navigate these cases. In this blog, we’ll explore how to navigate the legal system and the often murky waters of pre-existing conditions when it comes to personal injury claims. 

Picture of two doctors reviewing pre-existing condition x-ray.

Understanding Pre-Existing Conditions

Before delving into the impact of pre-existing conditions on personal injury claims, it's important to understand what a pre-existing condition is. 

A pre-existing condition is a health issue or medical condition that existed before the accident or incident that caused your personal injury. These conditions can range from chronic illnesses like diabetes or arthritis to previous injuries such as a prior broken bone or herniated disc.

Some of the most common conditions include:

  • Back injuries
  • Concussions
  • Pulled muscles
  • Epilepsy 

The Impact on Your Personal Injury Claim

Now that we’ve gone over what a pre-existing condition is, let’s discuss what these might mean when filing a personal injury claim. Whether you're looking to receive worker's compensation claim coverage, you've been involved in a hit-and-run car accident, or you feel as though you've been a victim of an emergency room misdiagnosis, knowing your rights and how to compile compelling evidence can make the difference.

Keep in mind that while in most cases, North Carolina has a 3-year period for filing personal injury claims, if you have a pre-existing condition, you will likely need to act with more urgency.

Can a Pre-Existing Condition Disqualify You from Compensation in a Personal Injury Claim?

No, a pre-existing condition does not automatically disqualify you from compensation in a personal injury claim. They can, however, make the process of winning compensation more complicated.

Many insurance companies attempt to avoid major payouts by using your pre-existing condition as an excuse. That is why it's important to partner with a personal injury lawyer who knows how to handle these types of cases.

Causation and Aggravation

One of the key factors that can affect your personal injury claim is whether the accident or incident exacerbated your pre-existing condition or caused a new injury. If your pre-existing condition was worsened or directly caused by the negligence of another party, you may be entitled to compensation for the additional harm you've suffered.

For example, if you have a pre-existing back condition and are involved in a car accident that aggravates that condition, you may have a valid claim for the exacerbation of your injury. In such cases, it's crucial to have medical evidence and expert opinions to establish the link between the accident and the worsening of your pre-existing condition.

Not sure if you need a car accident lawyer? Learn about when to hire a personal injury lawyer for a car accident.

The Eggshell Plaintiff Doctrine

In some jurisdictions, there is a legal principle known as the "eggshell plaintiff" doctrine. This principle states that a defendant is liable for the full extent of the harm they cause, even if the plaintiff's pre-existing condition makes them more susceptible to injury. Essentially, it means that the at-fault party cannot use the plaintiff's pre-existing condition as a defense to limit their liability.

For instance, if someone with a fragile bone condition is injured in a slip and fall accident, the responsible party may be held fully liable for the injuries, even if a person with normal bone health might not have been as seriously injured in the same accident.

Insurance Company Tactics

Insurance companies often try to use pre-existing conditions to their advantage in personal injury claims. They may argue that your injuries are primarily due to your pre-existing condition rather than the accident itself, which can result in lower settlement offers or the denial of your claim.

To counter these tactics, it's essential to have a strong legal representation on your side. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you gather evidence, secure expert witnesses, and build a compelling case to prove that the accident was the primary cause of your injuries.

Mitigation of Damages

In some cases, you may be required to demonstrate that you took reasonable steps to mitigate the impact of your pre-existing condition on your injury. This can involve following prescribed treatment plans, attending physical therapy, or taking medications as directed by your healthcare provider. Failure to do so can weaken your claim and lead to reduced compensation.

It's essential to keep detailed records of all medical treatment, appointments, and communications with healthcare professionals to show that you are actively working to address your pre-existing condition.

7 Tips for Handling Personal Injury Claims

Dealing with a personal injury claim when you have a pre-existing condition can be challenging, but it is not impossible. Here are some tips to help you navigate the process successfully:

1. Seek Immediate Medical Attention

After an accident, it's crucial to seek prompt medical attention, especially if you believe your pre-existing condition has been aggravated. Medical records and assessments can provide critical evidence linking your injuries to the accident.

2. Document Everything

Keep thorough records of all medical treatment, therapy sessions, and doctor's appointments related to both your health and your new injuries. This documentation can help establish the extent of your damages.

3. Consult with an Experienced Attorney

Hiring a personal injury attorney with experience in handling cases involving pre-existing conditions is essential. They can provide you with legal guidance, negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf, and represent your interests in court if necessary.

4. Be Honest and Transparent

Always be truthful about your condition when discussing your case with your attorney, medical professionals, and insurance companies. Honesty is crucial in building a strong case.

5. Gather Evidence

Collect all relevant evidence, including accident reports, witness statements, and any photographs or videos of the scene. This evidence can help establish liability and causation.

6. Follow Medical Advice

It's essential to follow your doctor's recommendations and treatment plans diligently. Failure to do so can be used against you by the defense.

7. Prepare for Depositions

If your case goes to trial, be prepared for depositions where you may be asked about your pre-existing condition. Your attorney can help you navigate these interviews effectively.

Final Word: Can a Pre-Existing Condition Affect Your Personal Injury Claim?

Having a pre-existing condition should not deter you from pursuing a personal injury claim if you've been injured due to someone else's negligence. While it can complicate matters, with the right legal representation and evidence, you can still seek compensation for your injuries. 

If you still have any questions about personal injury lawsuits, or if you are looking for guidance in your own case, schedule a 30-minute initial consultation at no cost with a skilled personal injury attorney at Van Camp, Meacham & Newman today. Contact our firm online, or call us at  910-295-2525.

Disclaimer: The information seen on this website, including the article above, is not legal advice or legal counsel. If you wish to speak to a personal injury lawyer who serves RaleighFayettevillePinehurstSanford, and beyond, contact our North Carolina attorneys directly using our online form or by calling 910-295-2525.

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