Can a Pre-Existing Injury Affect My Personal Injury Claim?

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If you or someone you love sustains an injury caused by the actions of another individual or entity, you should be able to recover compensation for your losses. However, can a pre-existing injury affect your ability to recover compensation for a current injury?

The answer should be a resounding “No.” However, pre-existing injuries will play a role in your ability to recover compensation, mainly because insurance carriers and at-fault parties will do anything they can to limit the amount of money they pay in a settlement. Here, our Long Beach injury lawyers want to discuss why a pre-existing injury should not affect your injury case, as well as what you can do to help ensure that you recover total compensation for your current injuries.

How do Pre-Existing Injuries Cause a Problem?

We first need to point out that insurance carriers are looking out for their bottom line. They do not want to pay out settlements for any claims, and when they know they are going to have to pay a settlement, they look for any reason to lower the amount they have to pay. Part of the process of trying not to pay large settlement amounts involves looking for a reason to deny the claim or lower the settlement. Insurance carriers and at-fault parties will look for pre-existing conditions or injuries of the individual making a claim.

Essentially, pre-existing injuries are any type of injury or illness that a person has sustained in the past that could be aggravated by the current accident or situation. There are various types of pre-existing injuries, some of the most common being:

  • Previous back injuries
  • Prior or ongoing joint conditions
  • Previous or ongoing respiratory illnesses
  • Cardiovascular diseases

When a person sustains an injury or illness, or if they have ongoing chronic conditions, there is a chance that these previous injuries or illnesses could be aggravated by the actions of others at a later date. For example, pre-existing injuries could be aggravated by an accident in the workplace, a vehicle accident, a slip and fall incident, a defective product incident, and more. Chronic illnesses could be aggravated by hazardous workplace conditions.

Pre-Existing Injuries Should not Matter

Even though insurance carriers and at-fault parties will scream from the rooftops that a pre-existing injury is the cause for the current pain and suffering a person is experienced, the reality is that pre-existing conditions should not absolve someone of their responsibilities for causing harm. If the existence of a pre-existing injury means that a person cannot recover compensation if they are harmed due to another individual’s negligence, then that means almost all injury claims would be invalidated.

That is simply not how this works.

Suppose a person sustained an injury to their back in a rear-end vehicle accident caused by the negligence of a driver. However, what happens if the injury victim also sustained a back injury in the workplace four years before the vehicle accident. You can almost be certain that the insurance carrier for the at-fault driver will try to claim that the previous back injury the person sustained at work is the reason for the current pain and suffering, not the vehicle accident.

Should that mean that the at-fault driver is off the hook for paying compensation?

No. The insurance carrier of the at-fault driver will be on the line for covering the medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering damages of the individual who was harmed in the rear-end crash. Regardless of whether or not the back injury is a new injury caused by the crash or an aggravation of a pre-existing injury, the at-fault driver caused the crash, and their insurance carrier must pay the compensation.