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Pre-Existing Medical Conditions Effect on an Injury Claim

The Law Offices of Gold, Albanese & Barletti, LLC  July 26, 2023

When injuries occur because someone else was negligent, you can hold the liable party responsible for your losses and damages, including medical bills. But, some personal injury claims are not that simple.   

If you have a pre-existing condition, which is a condition that occurred before your accident, it's common to face challenges when trying to recover damages. Insurance companies have a tendency to devalue or deny personal injury claims simply because the claimant has a pre-existing medical condition.   

However, having a pre-existing medical condition should not prevent you from obtaining compensation, though it can certainly complicate your case. At The Law Offices of Gold, Albanese & Barletti, LLC, our personal injury attorneys in Morristown, New Jersey, understand how pre-existing conditions can affect your claim and are committed to advocating for you to get the compensation you deserve. We represent personal injury claimants throughout New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts. 

What Are “Pre-Existing Medical Conditions?” 

In the context of personal injury law, pre-existing medical conditions are any health issues or conditions you had before the injury (accident). For example, let’s say you were suffering from chronic back pain after getting injured years ago, and in your recent car accident, you suffered a new back injury.   

The insurance company – provided that it has access to your medical records – is likely to argue that a back injury is a pre-existing medical condition, which could it more challenging to obtain full and fair compensation for your new back injury.   

A chronic back injury is not the only type of pre-existing medical condition that can affect an injury claim. Other common examples are: 

  • Heart conditions 

  • Shoulder injuries 

  • Neck injuries 

  • Osteoarthritis 

  • Arthritis 

  • Degenerative disc disease 

  • Fibromyalgia 

  • Sprains and strains 

  • Asthma 

  • Diabetes 

  • Sleep apnea 

  • Depression 

As you can imagine, this list can contain hundreds of other conditions. If you are considering filing an injury claim when there is a pre-existing medical condition, you will need to speak with a reliable attorney first. Your attorney will have your pre-existing condition in mind when preparing a claim and gathering evidence to support your claim.   

How Do They Affect a Personal Injury Claim? 

A common misconception is that pre-existing medical conditions will bar you from recovering damages through a personal injury claim. Insurance companies benefit from having injured victims believe that because it means many people with pre-existing medical conditions may think twice before filing an injury claim. Nevertheless, this couldn’t be further from the truth, as almost every person has some kind of underlying health condition.   

Whether or not a pre-existing medical condition can affect your injury claim depends on the type of injury and how the accident affected the condition. For example, if someone files a claim for an injury that existed prior to the accident and the accident did not worsen that injury, the insurance company can lawfully deny coverage.   

Although, if your injury, which existed prior to the accident, was made worse, you are eligible to get compensation for damages and expenses that arise from the worsening of your condition.   

The “Eggshell Plaintiff” Rule 

While it is true that pre-existing medical conditions can make people more likely to be injured in an accident, that does not mean they should receive less for their losses and damages. That is where the “eggshell plaintiff” rule comes into play. Essentially, this rule means that insurance companies must consider a victim as they are, with all their pre-existing and underlying health issues.

In other words, it means you cannot be denied compensation simply because you had a pre-existing condition that made you more likely to get injured in an accident.   

Protecting Your Rights With a Pre-Existing Medical Condition 

When filing a personal injury claim with a pre-existing medical condition, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure that your rights are protected and you receive the compensation to which you are entitled: 

1. You Have to Be Completely Honest With Your Attorney 

Firstly, your attorney should be the first or second (after your doctor) person to know about your pre-existing condition. Hiding the fact that you have some pre-existing medical condition from your attorney can negatively affect the outcome of your personal injury claim. After you inform your attorney of your pre-existing medical condition, they will be able to take appropriate measures to protect your claim.   

2. Seek Medical Attention Immediately  

Delaying your trip to a hospital or emergency room can make matters worse, especially if you have a pre-existing medical condition. Seeking medical attention to have proper documentation of your new injuries can help you strengthen your injury claim and receive appropriate compensation. 

3. If the Insurance Company Asks for Access to Your Medical Records, Call Your Attorney First 

The insurance adjuster may routinely ask you to provide access to your medical records. However, before you say “yes,” you need to consult with your attorney first. Your medical records may contain information that could lead to the denial of your injury claim. Your attorney will carefully review your records before advising you whether or not providing access to your medical records could potentially hurt your claim.   

Strong Legal Assistance  

Given the many challenges and complications you may face when filing a personal injury claim with a pre-existing medical condition, it is critical to seek legal assistance. Our personal injury attorneys at The Law Offices of Gold, Albanese & Barletti, LLC, can help you successfully navigate the claims process when you have a pre-existing condition.

Schedule a free consultation with our attorneys to learn how to obtain full and fair compensation for your injury. We proudly help clients throughout New Jersey, New York, and Boston, Massachusetts.