Can My Pre-Existing Injury Affect My Injury Claim?

November 26, 2020

Accidents can happen at any time, in any place, and to any person. If you sustain an injury due to someone else’s negligence, an insurance claim or lawsuit can help you recover the funds you need to treat your condition. However, all damages must involve the injuries you sustain in the accident — and if you have a pre-existing injury, it can be more difficult to understand the compensation you qualify for.

Damages in California Injury Claims

Under California law, negligent individuals are responsible for paying for the economic and non-economic damages of the victims in accidents they cause. For example, drivers who break traffic laws and subsequently cause collisions must pay for the losses the other drivers and their passengers sustain. Property owners who fail to keep their premises in a safe condition must pay if a visitor suffers an injury due to an obvious hazard, and medical professionals who commit acts of malpractice must also pay for damages their victims incur.
These damages may include vehicle repairs, lost wages, and a wide range of medical expenses, such as doctor’s visits, hospitalizations, physical therapies, surgeries, and medications. They may also involve physical and emotional pain and suffering, including the following.

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Chronic pain
  • Disability
  • Disfigurement and scarring
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Loss of quality of life

To establish your need for these damages, you will need to prove that the at-fault party’s actions directly caused your injury and subsequent losses. All of the damages you claim must directly involve the injuries you suffered in the crash. If you have a pre-existing condition, you will need to determine which financial, emotional, and physical losses are eligible for monetary compensation.

Personal Injury Lawsuits and Pre-Existing Injuries

You cannot claim compensation for any costs related to a pre-existing injury you were suffering from before the accident. However, you can claim damages if the accident aggravated your condition in some way.
For example, say that you are in a car accident with a driver who runs a red light. You are recovering from a broken arm at the time of the crash. You visit the doctor who determines that you suffer soft tissue injuries as a result of the accident. In this situation, you can only claim compensation related to the soft tissue damage — not for the broken arm.
However, say that your doctor orders an X-ray of your broken arm and sees new fractures in the scan. In these situations, you can deduce that the accident worsened your injury. As a result, you may be eligible for compensation to treat these new injuries.

Proving Damages with a Pre-Existing Injury

It can be difficult to determine which injuries are related to your accident and which are related to your pre-existing condition. Insurance companies and defense attorneys can claim that your damages have nothing to do with the accident, arguing that your pre-existing injury is to blame for your harm.
You should not let your pre-existing condition discourage you from filing a claim — but you should hire a personal injury lawyer to advocate for your best interests. Your attorney can connect with medical experts who can validate your injuries and produce evidence to distinguish pre-existing damage from recent harm. This medical expert can also determine if the injury aggravated your condition.
In addition to these resources, your lawyer can advise you on how to approach each stage of your case, from insurance negotiations to the lawsuit discovery process. If you have not done so already, speak to a personal injury attorney as soon as possible.