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How Do Pre-Existing Conditions Impact Personal Injury Claims?

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If you’ve been hurt in a car accident in Indianapolis and have a pre-existing condition, you may worry that your medical history will have a negative impact on any claim you might file.

And you would be right to worry. Pre-existing conditions can have an impact on your personal injury claims. This can feel unfair, since after your accident you may be in more pain now than ever. However, insurance companies may still try to limit the amount you can claim or deny it altogether.

This is a relatively common situation. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, between 19% and 50% of non-elderly Americans live with some type of pre-existing health condition. Thus, many who are injured in workplace incidents or vehicle collisions will have had a debilitating injury or condition before their accident. 

Although claimant laws vary from state to state, a pre-existing condition may make your claim more difficult. Especially if the condition is well-documented and has been treated, it may not be easy to prove to what degree your injuries owe to the current accident. An insurance company may try to use this information to adjust or deny your claim.

That doesn’t mean you can’t fight to get what you deserve, and a good lawyer can help you figure out your best course of action.

What counts as a pre-existing injury or condition?

A pre-existing condition, as defined by the Department of Health and Human Services, includes any injury or illness — physical or mental — that you may have experienced before your insurance claim. Although this definition is used in regards to healthcare, it’s universally applied to personal injury claims as well. 

If you broke your arm thirty years ago and your injury was set properly and healed, but then you break your arm again in a future accident, this is not considered a pre-existing condition. 

However, if you’ve experienced ongoing issues with migraine headaches but find they’re more severe after your workplace or collision injury, you’re contending with a  pre-existing condition.

A pre-existing condition is one that hasn’t completely healed or an affliction for which you’re receiving ongoing treatment to help you achieve full recovery. You may have received a diagnosis of this condition before your accident occurred. 

Your insurance company will want medical proof that your condition or injury was aggravated by your accident. If your workplace or negligence on the part of another driver is responsible, you should make sure that these causes are documented by medical professionals.

See a doctor before filing your personal injury claim

You may feel you do not require further medical attention for your pre-existing condition. However, if it’s been exacerbated by the trauma you’ve just endured, you should seek medical attention immediately. A doctor can verify any intensified severity of your pre-existing injury and can document and treat any new injuries.

Doctors can also act as witnesses for your claim — even if your injuries are related to your condition, a doctor can testify that your suffering is a direct result of your accident. 

It’s vital that you have this documentation on hand as evidence when you file your claim.

If you need to take your case to court, the more evidence you have collected, the better your chances at a reached settlement. A defendant in your case is still liable for any pre-existing conditions made worse by your accident.

The eggshell plaintiff doctrine

The good news is there are laws in place to help protect those with pre-existing conditions in their court cases. 

For instance, the “eggshell plaintiff doctrine” protects the rights of a plaintiff whose illnesses or injuries prior to the accident may make them more prone to injury. The doctrine states that although an injured party may have pre-existing conditions that make them more vulnerable to injury, this doesn’t remove liability from a defendant in any type of court case — including a personal injury claim. If a claimant can prove their injuries were exacerbated or caused by another party, the at-fault party must still be held liable.

If your claim goes to court, the defendant cannot try to absolve themselves of responsibility based on your pre-existing condition. However, even under the eggshell plaintiff doctrine, the burden of proof against a defendant still lies with the plaintiff. Thus, by taking the steps of seeking medical attention and documenting all evidence of your injuries, you can feel better prepared in your claim process. 

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Be honest about your pre-existing condition

Although laws are in place to encourage you to still seek justice after an accident despite your pre-existing condition, it’s important that you disclose your condition to any doctors you may see and when filing your claim. 

If you attempt to hide evidence of your condition, this can only hinder your case. Chances are the defendant’s lawyer will still discover your medical history, and then they will use the fact that you hid it to try and discredit your case. 

Ask your medical specialist to explain your condition to the defendant, or if your case goes to court, to a judge or jury. Your transparency can work in your favor.

When to Retain a Personal Injury Lawyer

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Your pre-existing condition shouldn’t keep you from filing a personal injury claim. A reputable, credible personal injury lawyer can help you navigate the legal and insurance issues that arise so you can concentrate on healing and moving forward with your life.

Call 317-334-9200 to talk to a lawyer about your specific case today.

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