A doctor monitors a patient for pre-existing conditions
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By Jarome Gautreaux

Pre-existing conditions should not prevent you from being able to recover in a personal injury case. Pre-existing conditions are medical issues that an individual has before the time they were involved in a personal injury incident. Why do they matter? Because in every personal injury case, the injured person has to prove that the injuries they received were “caused by” the incident, such as a car wreck, rather than something else, such as an already damaged back or neck that the injured person had before the wreck occurred. The defendant in these types of actions is likely to argue that your current pain or disability is due more to your pre-existing condition than the incident in question. This is a way of trying to reduce the amount they would owe in damages.

Pre-existing conditions should not disqualify you from seeking compensation, even though they might complicate a personal injury case. It is important to demonstrate the connection between the incident and how it made your pre-existing condition worse. Attorneys and insurance companies must distinguish between injuries related to the incident and symptoms arising from pre-existing conditions. Understanding the complexities of cases involving pre-existing conditions is essential for a fair assessment of these types of personal injury cases.

Considerations If There Are Pre-Existing Injuries 

Here are some factors to consider as to how pre-existing conditions can impact a personal injury case in Georgia:

  • Disclosure: It is important to disclose any pre-existing conditions during a personal injury case. If you fail to disclose these conditions and they are later discovered, it could severely call into question your credibility and the strength of your case.
  • Complications in Determining New Injuries: If a person has a pre-existing condition, it can be challenging to determine the extent to which a new injury, caused by an accident or incident, exacerbates that pre-existing condition. This can be a point of contention when calculating damages.
  • The “Eggshell Plaintiff” Rule: Georgia, like many states, follows the “eggshell plaintiff” doctrine, which holds that a defendant who causes injury to another person is responsible for the victim’s new injuries, as well as the worsening of any pre-existing or prior health conditions that the victim was already suffering from. In effect, the defendant takes a plaintiff as they find them.
  • Impact on Damage Awards: Even where the eggshell plaintiff rule applies, the presence of a pre-existing condition can still complicate the calculation of damages. It may require detailed medical testimony to differentiate the new injuries from the preexisting conditions and to establish how much the incident has exacerbated the individual’s existing condition.
  • Insurance Company Scrutiny: Insurance companies often scrutinize claims involving pre-existing conditions more closely. They may argue that the injuries claimed are not due to the incident but are rather the result of pre-existing conditions.
  • Necessity of Medical Evidence: In cases involving pre-existing conditions, it is crucial to have comprehensive medical records and expert testimony. This evidence can help in proving that the accident worsened the pre-existing condition or caused new injuries.
  • Negotiation and Litigation: Claims with pre-existing conditions often require more intensive negotiation and, potentially, litigation, as they are typically more complex than claims without such conditions.
  • Limitations and Exclusions: In some cases, insurance policies may have limitations or exclusions related to pre-existing conditions. This could affect the amount that the insurance company is willing to pay out.
  • Statute of Limitations: As with all personal injury claims, those involving pre-existing conditions are subject to a statute of limitations for filing a claim. Georgia’s statute of limitations states that you can typically bring a personal injury claim two years from the date of the injury.

Each personal injury case is unique, especially when pre-existing conditions are involved. Individuals in such situations should consult with an experienced personal injury attorney who can provide guidance specific to their case. Gautreaux Law can help differentiate between injuries caused by the accident and the pre-existing condition and advocate to make sure that you receive the appropriate compensation. Contact our law firm for a complimentary initial consultation.

About the Author
Jarome Gautreaux is a personal injury trial lawyer. He represents people who have been seriously injured, as well as the families of people killed because of carelessness or negligence. For over 20 years, he has successfully recovered more than 100 million dollars in a variety of Macon personal injury cases. Jarome’s reputation for client focus and case success has led to other lawyers requesting his assistance with complex personal injury litigation. What drives Jarome every day is his strong belief that the amount of money someone has should not dictate the justice they receive. It is for this reason that he has never worked for corporations, insurance companies, or other interest groups. Instead, he thrives on helping the people who need it most- people who have suffered at the hands of others and deserve compensation.