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How a Pre-Existing Condition Can Affect a Personal Injury Claim

If you were injured in an accident that worsened a pre-existing condition, you may be wondering how your condition will affect a personal injury claim. Although the pre-existing condition leaves you more prone to injury, it does not prevent you from filing a claim if your injuries were caused by the carelessness of another party.

A personal injury attorney will not only give you a better chance at obtaining proper compensation for your injury, but they will also help you understand the complications that may arise in your case because of the pre-existing condition.

Exacerbation or Aggravation of a Pre-Existing Condition

When an accident causes a previously diagnosed medical condition, ailment or minor injury to worsen, medical professionals refer to this as exacerbation of a pre-existing condition.

A pre-existing condition is a medical illness or injury that was diagnosed or treated before an accident occurred.

Most often, a pre-existing condition refers to chronic or long-term conditions such as arthritis or chronic back pain. However, even minor injuries, such as a sprain or broken bone, are considered a pre-existing condition if the injury becomes worse after an accident. Mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression can also be included.

You may have heard the terms “exacerbation” and “aggravation” used in relation to cases involving a pre-existing condition. Both terms refer to the injury’s level of severity.

  • Exacerbation refers to a minor flaring up of a condition.
  • Aggravation refers to a severe injury which requires further medical treatment.

No matter how severe or minor your injuries are, you may be able to receive compensation for an injury requiring additional medical treatment.

Determining Liability of the Accident

Pre-existing conditions are often associated with auto accidents, premises liability and Worker’s Compensation cases. Specific examples include:

  • A man sprained his neck during a recreational volleyball game. Soon after, he is in a car collision that was not his fault. A doctor determines he will need surgery to address the severe neck pain he is experiencing after the accident.
  • A woman has arthritis in her hips. Hazardous conditions at work cause her to slip and fall, causing long-term damage to her hips.

After an accident, the injured party is responsible for proving their injury worsened as a direct result of the carelessness or negligence of the other party.

One of the most important actions you can take to help your attorney prove your injury is to get a medical examination from a licensed physician. Doctors can act as an expert witness to prove exacerbation. Your attorney will help you obtain all the proper medical documentation to help prove your case.

How a Pre-Existing Condition Affects Compensation

Typically, in a personal injury case without a pre-existing condition, compensation reflects the severity of the injury. However, in a case that worsened a pre-existing condition, you can recover damages only to the degree that the accident made the condition worse.

  • Example: A construction worker suffers chronic back pain from a childhood injury. Workplace conditions are dangerous, and he is involved in an accident that worsens his back pain. The personal injury compensation will only cover the new back injury or any exacerbated conditions resulting from the accident.

Some pre-existing conditions, such as high blood pressure and asthma, do not cause pain until after an accident occurs. In these instances, compensation is measured by the whole amount of pain or harm caused by the accident.

  • Example: A driver with asthma gets into an auto collision. Her vehicle’s air bags deploy and trigger her asthma. A traumatic asthma attack can take days or even weeks to recover from and causes major stress and anxiety. The driver may be able to receive compensation for the medical expenses and loss of work she experienced as a result of the collision.

If there is one thing to remember about personal injury cases, it is to be sure there is a direct link between your injuries and the accident. Discuss your concerns with a qualified St. Louis personal injury attorney.

Speak to an Attorney

It is critically important to be honest with your doctors and attorneys after you have been in an accident. Visit your doctor for a medical examination as soon as possible to ensure your injuries are documented. Then, choose an attorney who you can trust.

The attorneys at Padberg Appelbaum Knepper have decades of combined experience helping clients who have suffered from exacerbation of a pre-existing condition. With a legal nurse on staff, we are uniquely positioned to provide the utmost care when proving your case.

We understand the difficulty that comes with filing a claim while recovering from a traumatic injury. Contact our office today for a free and confidential consultation with one of our experienced attorneys. Submit a contact form or call our office at (314) 621-2900.