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Do Pre-Existing Conditions Affect Personal Injury Claims?

Pre-Existing Conditions

Many discussions about personal injury claims start with the assumption that the victim was in a state of flawless health before their accident. In real life, however, this is rarely true; most people deal with all sorts of health conditions at various points in their lives, some major and some minor. So what impact do pre-existing conditions have on personal injury claims and the compensation victims receive?

In general, the victim in a personal injury case isn’t entitled to receive payment for injuries and conditions that are unaffected by an accident. They are, however, entitled to receive compensation for pre-existing conditions to the degree that the accident made them worse. This is known as exacerbation or aggravation of pre-existing conditions, and victims may be able to receive compensation not only for physical ailments and injuries, but also mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.

The importance of determining the severity of a pre-existing condition before and after an accident means that in any personal injury case, the injured party will inevitably face questions from the other side about their past injuries or health conditions. Your attorney will try to establish the degree to which the accident worsened any conditions or injuries you had beforehand, while the insurance company will always try to blame everything on any pre-existing problem they can find, no matter how minor or unrelated.


Don’t Let a Pre-Existing Condition Discourage You

You should never feel discouraged from pursuing compensation for your injuries just because of a pre-existing condition. In many cases, an injury victim who has received regular medical treatment will have an easier time producing concrete evidence of their medical history compared to someone who hasn’t seen a doctor in 10 years (which is yet another reason why even people who feel perfectly healthy should consider receiving regular check-ups).

The compensation you may be eligible to receive for the aggravation of a pre-existing condition will depend on establishing the severity of that condition and how it affected your life before the accident. Detailed and complete medical records regarding your previous conditions are thus a critical asset in a personal injury claim.

RELATED: Here’s What You Should Expect In A Personal Injury Deposition

As you might imagine, though, insurance companies (who are looking to pay you as little as possible) will often try to search through your medical history for any possible evidence that would suggest the accident has had minimal effects on your health. As a result, it’s important for you to hire an experienced personal injury attorney to represent you and then go over your complete medical history, including any pre-existing conditions, with your them at the beginning of the case.

When you discuss your case and your medical history with your attorney, remember that it’s absolutely critical for you to hold nothing back. Let your attorney decide how to handle any information that might seem to complicate your claim rather than keeping such details to yourself. Failing to disclose or forgetting about a pre-existing condition could damage your credibility, jeopardize your claim, and even expose you to legal action if the defense finds out about your omission.

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“The Eggshell Skull Rule” or “Take Your Victim as You Find Him”

One important legal concept that applies to pre-existing conditions in personal injury cases has a rather unusual name: it’s often called the “eggshell skull rule” (although it’s also known under a few other names, including the “take your victim as you find him” rule). In general, this rule applies to all personal injury claims, and it states that the relative frailty of the injury victim is not a valid defense against a claim.

The rule’s name comes from an imaginary case that illustrates the core concept: Imagine a person who injured someone else, unaware that the victim’s skull was as thin as an eggshell. Obviously, such a condition would leave that person extremely susceptible to injury. According to the “eggshell skull rule,” the defendant is liable for all damages that stem from their wrongful actions, even though they had no idea about the victim’s condition and even though that condition played a role in the severity of the resulting injuries.

The most important takeaway from this rule is that no victim should hesitate to contact an attorney if they were injured due to someone else’s negligence, regardless of the state of their health before the accident.


Contact Myers Law Firm If You've Been Injured

If you or a loved one has been injured due to someone else’s negligent actions, Myers Law Firm is here to help with aggressive, dedicated legal advocacy. When you choose us to represent you, we’ll put our years of experience and familiarity with local courts to work for you, and we’ll fight relentlessly on your behalf until your case reaches a resolution.

Call our offices today at 888-376-2889 or fill out the contact form on our website to schedule your free consultation with us. We will use this time to get to know you, learn about your case, and inform you about your legal options so you can go forward with confidence.


Definitions, Article 1, Chapter 50, N.C. General Statutes. § 50-16.1A. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.ncleg.net/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/PDF/BySection/Chapter_50/GS_50-16.1A.pdf

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.

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