Can a Pre-Existing Injury Impact a Personal Injury Claim in Pennsylvania?
A pre-existing injury does have the potential to impact your personal injury claim, but it will depend on the specifics of your situation. In all personal injury cases, the at-fault party is responsible for making the injured party “whole,” or in other words, as close as possible to the state they were in prior to the accident. That means you will still be entitled to compensation for a pre-existing injury that is aggravated or made worse due to another party’s negligence. However, the at-fault party is not responsible for putting you in a better condition than you were in before the accident.
How Can a Pre-Existing Injury Affect My Claim?
A defendant (at-fault party) is only liable for compensating a plaintiff (victim) for the injuries directly caused by their negligence. As a result, pre-existing injuries often create a legal grey area since it can be challenging to differentiate a pre-existing injury from current injuries. Additionally, it can actually be a disadvantage if you were in treatment for a pre-existing condition before the accident. Suspicion may be raised about reimbursing medical care after the accident that you were already receiving before it. As a result, you must be able to provide medical evidence that the accident furthered or aggravated your injury, or you risk the insurer denying compensation for your medical care.
Keep in mind that pre-existing injuries or conditions do not disqualify you from recovering compensation. An attorney can ensure your claim is successful by helping you establish the difference in your injury severity before and after the accident, as well as how your life has been impacted.
What Are Common Types of Pre-Existing Conditions
Any injury or condition that existed before a personal injury accident can be considered a pre-existing medical condition, but the most common are:
- Back injuries
- Neck or head injuries
- Past surgeries
- Heart problems
- Respiratory conditions
- History of chiropractic care
- Degenerative disc disease
- Spinal stenosis
- Previous pain treatments (medications, stents, pacemakers, etc.)
- Emotional or psychological conditions
Examples of personal injury accidents that often worsen pre-existing health conditions are auto accidents, slip and falls, workplace accidents, instances of medical malpractice, nursing home abuse in Scranton, defective products, and others.
Should I Disclose a Pre-Existing Injury?
A pre-existing injury should always be disclosed. Failing to do so can end up sabotaging your claim and chance of recovering fair compensation. The defense will most likely identify pre-existing injuries during the discovery phase when investigating your medical history and gathering the facts of the case. If that happens, your credibility is gone, and they may be successful in avoiding liability.
How you disclose a pre-existing injury is also critical. It is best to tell the adjuster upfront, or better yet, to let your attorney do so but do not provide a recorded statement. If you accidentally say the wrong thing or agree with the adjuster on an incorrect fact regarding your injury, it can end up reducing your compensation. Additionally, the adjuster may ask you to sign a medical release, but they may only want access to use your medical history against you. You are under no obligation to sign this form and have the right to limit the personal health information they review.