The Impact of Pre-Existing Conditions on Personal Injury Cases

The Impact of Pre-Existing Conditions on Personal Injury Cases

Personal injury cases are complex. They become even more complex when the plaintiffs had pre-existing conditions before they got in an accident. Although the plaintiff is entitled to compensation for their injuries, it’s often difficult to prove the accident is what caused them or made them worse than they were before.

When you hire Esquire Law to represent your case, you don’t have to worry about tying the accident to your injuries. Our personal injury lawyers have the skills and resources required to build a successful case and secure maximum financial compensation on your behalf. All you have to do is schedule a free case evaluation, and we’ll take it from there.

Understanding Pre-Existing Conditions

Definition and Examples

A pre-existing condition is an injury or a health condition a plaintiff had before they got in an accident that worsened because of the accident. Some examples of pre-existing conditions are injuries from unrelated accidents, injuries that didn’t heal properly, and congenital abnormalities. Additional examples include:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Osteoporosis
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Heart conditions
  • High blood pressure
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Disclosure and Medical History

Disclosing your pre-existing conditions to all parties involved in your case and providing sufficient medical documentation is essential for a few key reasons.

  • Your lawyer needs to be aware of your condition so they can prepare for arguments the defendant or insurance companies will make against you. This information also helps your lawyer accurately calculate your losses and how much compensation you should receive.
  • If you fail to disclose your condition upfront, insurance companies will likely deny your claim.
  • If your case goes to court, a jury will consider your failure to disclose this information as proof that the accident didn’t worsen your condition.

Impact on Personal Injury Cases

Contributory Negligence

Insurance companies jump at the chance to tie your injuries to your pre-existing conditions rather than the accident. That’s because the defendant—along with their insurer—is not liable for any injuries the plaintiff sustains before the accident. By denying the accident’s causation of the injuries, the defendant and their insurance company are off the hook for any costs involved.

Burden of Proof

The plaintiff bears the burden of proof to establish the defendant’s liability for the accident that caused or worsened their injuries. Establishing liability requires the presence of four key elements:

  • Duty
  • Breach of duty
  • Causation
  • Damage


An individual’s or entity’s duty of care is their legal responsibility to act in a way that does not put others in danger. Two drivers, for example, owe each other a duty of care to abide by local traffic laws. Similarly, doctors owe a duty of care to their patients to treat their medical needs and do no harm.

Breach of duty

If one party violates their duty of care, a breach has occurred. A party can breach their duty of care by acting negligently, recklessly, or with intent to harm another.


The injured party in a personal injury case (the plaintiff) must prove that the negligence, recklessness, or intentional actions of the other party (the defendant) caused their injuries.


In addition to proving the defendant’s actions caused their injuries, the plaintiff must prove they suffered some form of identifiable harm as a result. The harm can be physical, psychological, financial, or a combination of the three.

Comparative Negligence

Comparative negligence is a legal principle that allows a partially at-fault plaintiff to seek damages from the defendant. The plaintiff’s compensation is simply reduced by their degree of fault. If the plaintiff is 20% at fault, their compensation will be reduced by 20%. Arizona is a pure comparative negligence state, which allows a plaintiff to be up to 99% at fault and still seek damages.

Independent Medical Examination

Purpose and Process

Seeking medical treatment after an accident and documenting it thoroughly is vital. Not only does it ensure you receive the medical care you need to make a full recovery, but it also helps prove the accident caused or worsened your condition. Your lawyer, insurance companies, and a potential jury will consider this information when determining liability and calculating compensation. If you have little to no documentation of medical treatment, your claim is more likely to be denied.

Plus, if you were receiving medical treatment for your pre-existing condition before the accident, your doctor will be able to pinpoint when and how the damage was exacerbated. If you claim the accident worsened a condition for which you received no medical treatment before it happened, you’ll have a hard time convincing others of the causation.

Settlement Negotiations

Evaluating the Impact of Pre-existing Conditions

The plaintiff with a pre-existing condition in a personal injury case is entitled to financial compensation for the losses they sustained as a result of the accident. They are not entitled to compensation for the injuries they had before the accident occurred. Compensation can cover everything from medical bills to PTSD.

The severity of your pre-existing condition before and after the accident plays a key role when calculating damages. If you can prove the condition got worse after the accident, you can secure a higher settlement to cover your now higher medical bills.

However, if you can’t tie the accident to your new or worsened symptoms, you will either receive a lower settlement or none at all. That’s why documenting your symptoms and medical treatment received before and after the accident is so important.

Legal Strategy and Negotiation Tactics

 Formulating an effective legal strategy will significantly increase your chances of having a successful case and securing maximum compensation. This strategy should include the following elements:

  1. Hire a skilled personal injury attorney: Your chances of having a successful claim are extremely low without help from a seasoned legal professional. Find a personal injury lawyer who has experience representing cases like yours, a high success rate, and mostly positive client reviews.
  1. Be honest with your attorney: Give your lawyer full disclosure regarding the accident and your pre-existing condition. The more information they have, the more effectively they will oppose the at-fault party’s arguments against you. Failing to disclose important details about the accident or your condition could jeopardize your claim and any compensation you might have received.
  1. Gather sufficient evidence: With the help of detailed medical records and expert testimony, your lawyer can prove the accident worsened your pre-existing condition. Keep in mind that the quality of your medical records is important. They should outline in detail the severity of your pre-existing before the accident and how it worsened after the accident. Your lawyer should evaluate evidence such as imaging results, diagnostic tests, doctor’s reports, and prescriptions.

One step in the legal process your lawyer will handle for you is negotiating a settlement. These negotiations take place between your lawyer, the opposing party’s legal counsel, and one or both of your insurance companies.

The opposing party will present an offer, your attorney will either accept or decline it, and so on, until an agreement is reached. The first offer is typically the worst. The other party often tries to take advantage of your situation by convincing you to accept the lowest amount possible. But don’t worry—your lawyer won’t fall for this trap. They will use the evidence you provided to increase the settlement offer.

Most personal injury cases settle during negotiations, primarily because neither party involved wants to drag out the process. However, if the parties can’t reach an agreement, the case will go to court where your lawyer will present your case before a judge and jury.

Maximize Your Compensation With Esquire Law

The aftermath of an accident is difficult, especially if you have a pre-existing condition that’s now worse because of what happened. Esquire Law will hold the responsible party accountable for the harm they caused you by making them pay for your accident-related expenses. From gathering medical records from your healthcare providers to fighting against greedy insurance companies, your lawyer will handle every step of the legal process so you can focus on getting better.

Don’t wait to get the justice you deserve. Contact us today to get started with a free case evaluation. An attorney will meet with you in person or over the phone to discuss the details of your case and strategize the next steps.

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