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Pre-existing Medical Conditions and Damage Awards

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What Is a Pre-existing Medical Condition?

In a legal setting, the term “pre-existing medical condition” refers to injuries or medical conditions that existed prior to the injury being claimed in a lawsuit. Pre-existing conditions are typically the subject of personal injury claims and insurance settlements. They sometimes arise in the context of workplace injuries, especially where the claim involves repetitive stress injuries.

A person filing a personal injury lawsuit is required to disclose whether they had any pre-existing medical conditions. These will be factored in when calculating an award for damages near the end of trial.

What Are Some Examples of Pre-Existing Medical Conditions?

Any injury or medical condition that existed before the time of an accident can be considered a pre-existing medical condition. However, for the purpose personal injury lawsuits, the most important pre-existing medical conditions are those that begin to interact with the newer injury. 

Some examples of common pre-existing medical conditions include:

  • Injuries sustained from a previous, unrelated accident
  • Congenital abnormalities (i.e., “birth defect”)
  • Injuries that did not heal properly or are in the process of healing (these are common for joint, spine, and neck injuries)
  • Medical conditions that disappear and reappear under stress, such as asthma, seizure, or epilepsy

How Do Pre-existing Conditions Affect My Ability to Recover Damages?

While having a pre-existing condition will not disqualify the injured person from recovering damages, the amount of the award will usually be reduced in consideration to the pre-existing injury. Of course, it can be a difficult task to sort out which injuries were caused by the defendant and which were already in existence beforehand. However, this can usually be done through medical examination or expert testimony

Similarly, a person is usually obligated to disclose pre-existing conditions in other settings like insurance policies and employment claims. Failure to make such disclosures can have negative consequences on the injured person, both legally and economically. 

Do I Need a Lawyer for Issues with Pre-existing Medical Conditions?

Personal injury claims can sometimes be complicated, especially if the injured party already had injuries before the accident. If you have been injured and wish to file a lawsuit, you may wish to contact a personal injury lawyer for assistance. Your lawyer can help advise you on how pre-existing conditions might affect your damages award. 

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 04-23-2018 10:43 PM PDT

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