A pre-existing injury does not mean you automatically lose the opportunity of obtaining compensation through an insurance settlement or personal injury claim. An insurance company cannot deny your claim based on a pre-existing injury alone. An injury, condition or disability you already had may, however, make it more difficult to convince an insurance company to offer a fair settlement after an accident that exacerbates your pre-existing condition. Work with a Kansas City personal injury attorney if you need assistance with a claim involving a pre-existing injury.
What Are Pre-Existing Injuries?
Any injury, illness, medical condition, surgery or procedure you had before the date of the accident in question could count as a pre-existing injury during a personal injury claim. The injury must have occurred before the accident for which you are currently filing a claim to qualify as pre-existing. Pre-existing injuries can include broken bones, chronic pain, a persistent back or neck injury, a pulled muscle, a sports injury, or a traumatic brain injury.
No matter how separate your pre-existing injury seems from your new injuries, it is important to report it to the insurance company responsible for your claim. The insurance company will need to know about any and all pre-existing injuries and health conditions even if they seem irrelevant to your current case. Fully reporting pre-existing injuries can prove your credibility as a claimant. It is especially vital, however, to report pre-existing injuries that relate to your new injuries. A pre-existing injury could affect the value of your overall claim.
The Eggshell Skull Rule
A legal doctrine called the Eggshell Skull Rule may apply to your personal injury claim if you have a pre-existing injury. While a pre-existing injury will not affect your claim in the sense of giving an insurance company a reason to deny a settlement, it could impact its potential value. A pre-existing injury may entitle you to greater compensation if the new accident exacerbated existing conditions. The law may entitle you to compensation for your new injuries as well as any treatments you may now need on pre-existing injuries due to the accident.
The Eggshell Skull Rule states that a defendant cannot use a plaintiff’s pre-existing injury as a reason to deny coverage. The defendant must take the plaintiff as he or she found the plaintiff, pre-existing injuries and all. The doctrine earned its name from a popular example taught to law students: if a plaintiff was born with a skull as thin as an eggshell, and thus suffered tremendous brain injuries that a normal plaintiff would not have suffered in an accident, the plaintiff would still be eligible for full coverage for his or her damages.
It will not matter if your pre-existing conditions are why you suffered such serious injuries in an accident – the defendant would still owe you compensation for the full value of your damages as they are. If a pre-existing back injury, for example, means you now have a full disability after a minor rear-end collision, the defendant would owe you for the full disability, not what your injuries might have been without the pre-existing injury. A defendant cannot legally use a pre-existing injury against you as a means of escaping liability.
Proving Your Injury Claim
A pre-existing injury may, however, make it harder to win your personal injury claim. An insurance company may request extensive medical records to document your pre-existing injury as well as your current physical state. A comparison of your past medical records with current test results may be necessary. Your lawyer may need to hire a medical expert to testify how your current injuries affect or worsen your pre-existing condition. It is important to work with a lawyer if you had a pre-existing injury before your most recent accident. An injury lawyer can help you prove your claim and fight for full compensation.