Serious patient looking at x-ray image of her brain

How Pre-Existing Conditions Affect Personal Injury Claims 

Downs, McDonough, Cowan & Foley Sept. 16, 2022

If you were injured in an accident and filed a personal injury claim, the insurance adjuster might start asking questions about your pre-existing conditions. But can your pre-existing conditions affect your personal injury claim? And if so, should you disclose them to the insurance company? 

The truth is: Having a pre-existing condition can make seeking compensation more challenging. However, it does not mean that you are not entitled to compensation just because you had some medical condition before the date of the accident.  

At Downs, McDonough, Cowan & Foley, we have extensive experience handling personal injury claims for clients with pre-existing conditions. We understand the challenges you are facing and know what it takes to help you secure the compensation to which you are entitled. From our office in Durango, Colorado, we serve clients throughout the state, including Telluride, Cortez, Pagosa Springs, and The Four Corners.  

What Are ‘Pre-Existing Medical Conditions’? 

Before we discuss how pre-existing conditions can affect personal injury claims, it is essential to define the term. A pre-existing condition is any health problem, injury, illness, or medical condition that existed before the accident occurred. So, for example, if you were in a car accident two years ago and injured your back, and now you get into another accident, the back injury would be your pre-existing medical condition.  

When processing your personal injury claim, the insurance company will want to review your medical records to see if there are any pre-existing conditions. Some of the pre-existing medical conditions that could potentially affect your claim include:  

  • Head injuries 

  • Back injuries 

  • Neck injuries 

  • Degenerative disc disease 

  • Spinal cord injuries 

  • Arthritis 

  • Heart problems 

  • Respiratory conditions 

While injured victims are not entitled to compensation for conditions that existed before the date of the accident, they can recover damages if the accident aggravated their condition.  

Do Pre-Existing Conditions Affect a Personal Injury Claim?  

Contrary to what an insurance adjuster might tell you, your pre-existing condition does not disqualify you from receiving financial compensation. You can still seek compensation if your pre-existing condition was made worse by a subsequent accident.   

While the at-fault party cannot be held responsible for the injured party’s original injury or condition, they are responsible for aggravating the injury/condition. Unfortunately, you may have to deal with arguments from the opposing party or the insurance company saying that you were not injured in the accident and are just trying to seek compensation for your original injury or condition.   

That is why filing a personal injury claim is more complicated when you have a pre-existing condition. You must seek the assistance of a skilled attorney to help you assess to what extent the accident aggravated your pre-existing condition and, using the assessment, calculate the value of your personal injury claim.   

What Is the ‘Eggshell Plaintiff’ Rule? 

When it comes to understanding how pre-existing conditions affect personal injury claims, it is vital to learn more about the so-called “eggshell plaintiff” rule. Under this rule, defendants (at-fault parties who cause injuries) must take plaintiffs (injured parties) as-is. In other words, the “eggshell plaintiff” rule prevents defendants from using the plaintiff’s pre-existing conditions to reduce or escape liability.  

The Importance of Disclosing a Pre-Existing Condition 

When you go to a hospital after an accident, a medical professional who assesses your condition will usually request your medical history before prescribing any treatment because your past or existing conditions may affect the treatment plan. That is why disclosing your pre-existing conditions is critical when you see a doctor after the accident.  

It is equally important to disclose your pre-existing conditions to your personal injury attorney. Do not try to hide the fact that you already had certain injuries or conditions at the time of the accident. Concealing your pre-existing conditions may jeopardize your claim. Keep in mind that you can trust your attorney because your attorney works to protect your interests.  

Get Trusted Legal Advocacy 

If you have pre-existing conditions and are worried that they may affect your personal injury claim, get legal counsel immediately. Our experienced personal injury attorneys at Downs, McDonough, Cowan & Foley can help you navigate your case and ensure that you get the compensation to which you are entitled. Reach out to us in Durango, Colorado, to discuss your particular case. We also serve clients in Telluride, Cortez, Pagosa Springs, Colorado, and The Four Corners.