PERSONAL INJURY CLAIMS written on a sheet

How Pre-Existing Conditions Can Affect Your Injury Claim

Ranken & Shnider, Attorneys at Law  Aug. 22, 2023

You’ve no doubt heard of “pre-existing conditions” in the context of obtaining health insurance, but this same term can also come into play when filing an insurance claim or a personal injury claim. For example, if you sustain an injury but you’ve also had a pre-existing condition, this will affect how to structure your claim. In fact, according to a report put out by the Department of Health and Human Services, anywhere from 19% to 50% of non-elderly Americans have some sort of pre-existing medical condition.  

If you’ve recently been injured and are someone who has a pre-existing condition, call us at Ranken & Shnider, Attorneys at Law in Maui, Hawaii, for legal help. 

What Are Pre-Existing Medical Conditions?

The term “pre-existing medical condition” is incredibly broad and can be interpreted in many ways. It’s precisely because of this that you should seriously consider working with a personal injury attorney if you believe your pre-existing condition will be factored into your claim at all.  

At its most basic definition, a pre-existing condition is any health condition that a person has before a new injury or illness befalls them. This includes illnesses, chronic diseases, disabilities, and mental disorders. There are hundreds of examples, but some of the more common include: 

  • Cancer 

  • Heart disease 

  • Previously broken bones 

  • Herniated discs 

  • Depression 

  • Diabetes 

  • Osteoporosis 

  • Chronic back pain 

  • Previous traumatic brain injuries or concussions 

  • Arthritis 

  • Fibromyalgia 

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) 

  • Epilepsy 

  • Anxiety disorders 

How Do They Affect a Personal Injury Claim?

One of the most common questions we receive from clients who are interested in filing a lawsuit after an accident is, “How does a pre-existing condition affect my injury claim?” This is an essential topic to tackle because while a pre-existing condition will affect the way you approach your claim, it won’t prevent you from winning damages.  

In short, simply because you have a pre-existing condition doesn’t automatically preclude you from seeking compensation. You are still legally allowed to file a lawsuit or insurance claim against the at-fault party. That said, there are certain considerations you’ll have to take into account. 

The single most important thing you’ll need to focus on during your injury claim is evidence. Naturally, supplying sufficient evidence is important during any lawsuit or claim, but in these cases, it becomes even more important. You’ll not only need to show medical documentation for your new injuries, but also for your previous condition and how they have affected you. You’ll also need to ensure you’re being completely honest with the insurance company and your attorney about your conditions. This evidence could include:  

  • Previous medical diagnosis of your previous condition 

  • Description of how your previous condition is currently being treated and how it affects your everyday life 

  • Current medical diagnosis of your new injuries 

  • Medical records that clearly describe how your previous condition exacerbates or worsens your new injury; this should include proof that your new injuries were not present before the accident happened 

  • Employment records showing time you had to take off work due to your injuries or describing how you can no longer perform your regular job duties due to your new injuries 

  • Witness testimony from doctors or other medical professionals who can attest to your health both before the accident and after 

“Eggshell Plaintiff” 

Another interesting term you’ll run into when pursuing a personal injury case like this is called the “eggshell plaintiff” rule. This legal concept is used to illustrate why accident victims—even those with pre-existing conditions—are still due damages from the at-fault party. Using this colorful analogy, we can imagine an individual who has a skull as thin and fragile as an eggshell. If this person then gets into an accident where they hit their head, it stands to reason they would suffer severe damage.  

Even if this was a relatively minor accident that wouldn’t cause an injury to an average person, the at-fault party would still be responsible for paying all damages that stemmed from it. In short, you can’t be punished after you’re injured by not being able to sue for damages simply because you happened to have a pre-existing condition. Of course, this is an extreme example used to illustrate a legal concept. If two people were in the same accident and one walked away with a few bruises and the other with multiple broken bones, they are both equally deserving of compensation for their injuries. 

Explore Your Legal Options

If you’re located in the Maui, Hawaii, area and have recently been in an accident but are concerned about how your pre-existing conditions will factor into your claim, you should consider working with our team at Ranken & Shnider, Attorneys at Law. Our lawyers are committed to thoroughly evaluating each case and educating all our clients so they fully understand their options. Call us today to get started.