Filing a personal injury claim can often be a stressful and emotional situation. Dealing with the complicated combination of medical bills, necessary time off work, and sometimes severe pain caused by an injury may seem like it is more than you can handle. If you add to those stressors the fact that you already had a preexisting injury to the same body part before your accident, your case may feel unmanageable and difficult to navigate.
However, you should not let the fact that you have a preexisting injury or medical condition discourage you from pursuing legal action to recover the damages you deserve. Protect yourself and your family by knowing and understanding the best way to successfully file an injury claim when you have a preexisting injury.
When might I file an injury claim?
There are a variety of reasons you might file a personal injury claim. For example, if you were in a car accident, you slipped and fell in a grocery store parking lot, or you were harmed by a faulty or broken chair in a restaurant, you may be entitled to compensation from the party whose negligence caused your injuries.
Most personal injury claims are based on a theory of negligence. To prevail in a negligence claim, you must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that (1) the defendant had a legal duty to act as a reasonably prudent person under the circumstances; (2) they failed to do so and breached this duty; (3) their negligent conduct was the proximate and actual cause of your injury; and (4) their conduct resulted in damages to you.
For example, if you were in an automobile accident, the driver who hit may have breached their duty to drive as a reasonably prudent person under the circumstances. If you slipped and fell in a grocery store parking lot because no one shoveled the snow or took care of the ice, the store may have breached their duty to keep their property safe for patrons.
Once you determine that the defendant negligently caused your injuries, you must then begin to anticipate the defenses they might assert. One very common defense in a personal injury claim is that the plaintiff’s injury preexisted the accident. In plain terms, through this legal argument, the defendant is claiming that they cannot be liable for your injuries because something else caused your injuries before the accident in question ever occurred.
What is a preexisting injury?
While most conversations and assumptions regarding personal injury claims may begin with the idea that all claimants were in perfect health when the claim was filed, that is not the reality in many instances. All of us deal with health concerns and injuries, whether major or minor, throughout life, which means that you may experience a time when you need to file a personal injury claim with a preexisting injury or health condition.
A preexisting injury or other medical condition is simply that: any injury you sustained prior to the accident in question for which you have filed a personal injury claim. Examples of preexisting injuries include neck strains, contusions, a history of headaches, back pain, and any other documented injuries or complaints of pain that may relate to your current injuries.
What issues can arise from having a preexisting injury?
When you file a personal injury claim, you put your medical history in question, which means that you are not entitled to the same expectation of privacy for your medical records and must provide a copy of certified medical records to the defendant upon their request. This includes medical records pertaining to your accident, and prior and subsequent records.
It is common for a defendant in a personal injury claim to argue that they are not the cause of your complained injuries, but rather that your injuries already existed at the time of accident. Alternatively, they may concede that their actions exacerbated your condition, but argue that they are only responsible to compensate you for a fraction of your damages.
To be successful in your claim, your attorney will need to prove that the defendant’s negligent actions were the proximate and actual cause of your injuries. Essentially, they must convince the court that but for the defendant’s negligent conduct, you would not have suffered your injuries. If you are able to prove that the defendant’s conduct worsened or exacerbating a preexisting injury, you may be able to recover damages reflecting the extent to which they worsened your condition.
How can hiring a medical expert help me?
Medical experts are medical professionals who, based on the medical evidence available, can offer an opinion as to the cause, nature, and extent of your injuries within a reasonable degree of medical certainty.
Your opponent’s legal team is likely to attempt to disprove your claims, discredit your medical evidence, and assert that your injury is attributable to a preexisting condition rather than their actions or the accident in question. Having a medical expert who has extensive knowledge about your medical history, the accident, and your injuries can help to prove essential elements of your claim. She or he will also be able to provide an expert opinion by reviewing medical evidence, such as x-rays, CT scans, and MRI scans, and help better explain your injuries and how and when they were most likely sustained to the court.
I need to file an injury claim with a preexisting injury. What do I do next?
Even personal injury claims which may seem very simple at first, like a rear-end collision, can quickly become complex and complicated when a plaintiff has a preexisting injury to the same injured body part. Contact the Law Firm of Alan R. Goodman if you have been injured in an accident in the Springfield, MA area. We will use our years of experience successfully helping countless injury victims recover the compensation they are entitled to. For a complimentary consultation and review of your case, call us today at 413-736-1616.