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How Do Preexisting Medical Conditions Affect a Personal Injury Claim?

Abrahamson Law Office April 17, 2024

Suffering from a personal injury can be emotionally taxing, especially for those dealing with preexisting medical conditions. Such conditions can significantly complicate your recovery and pose additional challenges when fighting for fair compensation. Insurance companies often scrutinize these cases more closely, seeking ways to attribute the current injuries to past medical issues. This can add layers of frustration and difficulty, underscoring the importance of handling these claims with meticulous attention and strategic planning.  

At Abrahamson Law Office, we've seen firsthand how personal injury claims are not just legal challenges but deeply personal journeys. From our years of experience and knowledge of personal injury law, we provide the necessary guidance and legal representation to help you file a personal injury claim and get the compensation you deserve.  

What Are Preexisting Conditions?  

Preexisting conditions are medical issues or injuries that an individual already had before an accident or incident that led to a personal injury claim. These can range from chronic illnesses, such as diabetes or heart disease, to previous injuries that have not fully healed, such as a back injury or a sprained ankle. Having a preexisting condition does not automatically disqualify you from pursuing a personal injury claim. However, it can influence how your claim is evaluated and the compensation that may be awarded. Some common examples of preexisting conditions include:  

  • Chronic Diseases: Conditions like diabetes, hypertension, or asthma that have been diagnosed and treated before the accident.  

  • Degenerative Disc Disease: A condition that affects the discs between the vertebrae in the spine, often found in older adults.  

  • Previous Injuries: Injuries such as fractures, dislocations, or concussions that occurred before the incident in question. Even if these injuries were completely healed, their history could still be relevant.  

  • Arthritis: Both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are common conditions that can be considered preexisting since they affect joints and cause pain and stiffness.  

  • Mental Health Issues: Depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions that existed before the accident can also be considered preexisting conditions.  

How Do Preexisting Conditions Affect Personal Injury Claims?  

The impact of preexisting conditions on personal injury claims can vary depending on several factors, such as the type and severity of the condition, how it relates to the current injuries sustained in the accident, and how it affects the overall treatment and recovery process. In some cases, a preexisting condition may be aggravated or worsened by the accident, while in others, it may remain unaffected. Some of the ways preexisting conditions can affect personal injury claims include: 

  • Causation and Aggravation: One of the main issues of preexisting conditions is determining their role in causing or aggravating the injuries sustained in an accident. Insurance companies may argue that the preexisting condition was the main cause of the injuries and not the accident. 

  • Treatment and Recovery Time: Preexisting conditions can also impact the treatment and recovery process for new injuries sustained in an accident. For instance, if you have preexisting arthritis and sustain a knee injury in a car accident, your recovery time may be longer and more complicated due to your arthritis.  

  • Compensation: Preexisting conditions can influence the amount of compensation awarded in a personal injury claim. In some cases, insurance companies may try to reduce the value of a claim by arguing that preexisting conditions affected the claimant's quality of life before the accident.  

Understanding Your Rights  

When filing a personal injury claim with a preexisting condition in Nebraska, it’s crucial to understand your legal rights and how they are protected under state law. Nebraska follows the principle that a negligent party must "take the victim as they find them." This means that if you have a preexisting condition that is exacerbated by an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you are entitled to compensation for the aggravation of that condition.  

Transparency about your medical history plays a pivotal role in the success of your claim. Disclosing your preexisting conditions to your attorney will allow them to advocate effectively on your behalf. This transparency makes sure that any argument made by the opposing side to attribute your injuries solely to your preexisting condition is countered with evidence of the accident's impact on your health.  

However, proving that an accident aggravated a preexisting condition requires compelling evidence. Medical records, doctor’s testimonies, and, if necessary, expert opinions are crucial to demonstrate the link between the accident and the exacerbation of your condition.   

Additionally, in Nebraska, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim is four years from the date of the accident. It is essential to act promptly to secure your rights, otherwise you may be ineligible to receive damages or compensation for your injury. 

How to File a Personal Injury Claim with a Preexisting Condition  

There are steps you can take to file a personal injury claim when dealing with a preexisting condition to make sure your rights are protected and you are compensated fairly:  

  1. Gather Comprehensive Medical Records: First, compile a complete set of medical records, including documentation of your preexisting condition(s). This should cover your medical history, treatments received before and after the accident, and any relevant doctor’s notes. These records are vital for establishing the state of your health before and after the incident.  

  1. Consult with a Personal Injury Attorney: An experienced personal injury attorney who understands the complexities of preexisting conditions can offer invaluable advice, guide you through the legal process, and help build a strong case to advocate for your rights effectively.  

  1. Disclose All Relevant Information to Your Attorney: Be transparent with your attorney about your preexisting condition(s) and how the accident affected you. This enables your attorney to anticipate and counter any arguments the opposing side might use about your preexisting condition.  

  1. Document the Accident’s Impact: Make detailed notes and gather evidence on how the accident has aggravated your preexisting condition. This could include new symptoms, changes in mobility, additional treatments, and how these changes affect your daily activities.  

  1. Obtain a Professional Medical Evaluation: Have a medical professional evaluate how the accident may have exacerbated your preexisting condition. This step often involves detailed medical examinations and possibly opinions from specialists in relevant medical fields.  

  1. Prepare for Possible Independent Medical Examinations (IMEs): The insurance company may request an independent medical examination to assess the extent of your injuries and the impact on your preexisting conditions. While this is standard, consult with your attorney on how to approach this examination. 

  1. File Your Claim: File your claim promptly and pay attention to the statute of limitations in Nebraska. Starting the process early will give you ample time to compile the necessary evidence and build a compelling case.  

  1. Negotiate With the Insurance Company: With your attorney’s assistance, undertake negotiations with the insurance companies involved. Your lawyer will use the collected evidence and legal expertise to advocate for a fair settlement that acknowledges the full impact of the accident on your preexisting conditions.  

  1. Consider Litigation if Necessary: If a satisfactory settlement cannot be reached with the insurance company, be prepared to take your claim to court. While litigation can be longer and more complex, sometimes it is necessary to achieve fair compensation.  

Legal Assistance You Can Trust  

Filing a personal injury claim involving preexisting conditions can be challenging, but you don't have to go through it alone. At Abrahamson Law Office, we are dedicated to helping you understand your rights and options, and we fight tirelessly to ensure you receive the justice and compensation you deserve. With our extensive legal expertise, you can trust us to guide you through this process. Contact us today for a free consultation and let us help you get the justice and closure you deserve.