How Do Pre-Existing Medical Conditions Affect Personal Injury Claims?
It could happen to anyone. You are accidentally and seriously injured because another party was negligent – a driver, for instance, or a property owner, or even a doctor – and you have to be out of work for weeks or maybe even months. A Bethesda personal injury lawyer can help.
In the State of Maryland, the injured victims of negligence are entitled to compensation for their medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and all related losses and damages. However, you will need a personal injury attorney to help you obtain that compensation.
But what if you have a pre-existing medical condition? And what if the person who injured you – or that person’s attorney or insurance company – argues that you were not really injured as you claim, but your injury was pre-existing? Can you still be compensated?
Keep reading, and you’ll learn how a personal injury attorney can help you prevail with an injury claim, even if the injury you sustained exacerbated a pre-existing condition. You’ll also learn more about your rights under Maryland’s personal injury laws.
How Is Liability Established in Personal Injury Cases?
Most personal injury claims arise from the injuries sustained in traffic collisions. If another driver is negligent, and you are injured, that driver’s auto insurance company will reject your injury claim unless there’s proof that the driver was negligent and therefore liable.
But even if your injury did not occur in a traffic accident, in all personal injury cases, these are the four “elements of the case” that you and your attorney must prove to establish the other party’s liability:
1. Duty of care: The defendant (the party charged with negligence) owed the plaintiff (the injury victim) a duty of care to avoid causing harm.
2. Breach of duty: Instead, the defendant breached the duty of care by acting negligently or by a failure to act that constituted negligence.
3. Cause: The defendant’s reckless or negligent action or inaction was a direct cause of the plaintiff’s personal injury or injuries (as confirmed by medical documentation).
4. Damages: The plaintiff’s medical expenses and other damages are monetarily quantifiable, and Maryland law requires the defendant to pay that amount to the plaintiff.
The evidence that you and your attorney can present to prove liability may include eyewitness statements or testimony, photos, and police and accident reports as well as medical records.
When You’re Injured (Again) With a Pre-Existing Injury
Unless you are taken to the hospital or treated at the accident scene, obtain a complete medical exam as soon as you can after you’ve been injured – within 24 hours if possible. The longer you wait, the more difficult it may be to link your new injuries or injuries to a specific incident.
Tell the medical providers exactly how and when you were injured. How severe is the pain? Are your movements limited, and if so, how? Describe your symptoms in detail. Be as clear, precise, and thorough as possible.
If you have a pre-existing medical condition or injury, make it abundantly clear that your current symptoms did not exist prior to the incident that has caused your current personal injury or injuries.
If You Are a Victim of Negligence – With a Pre-Existing Condition
As we age, we often develop medical conditions related to aging, such as osteoporosis or degenerative spine disease. You may not even be aware of these conditions until you are injured and you undergo imaging studies.
Still, if you suffered no symptoms prior to the accident, you will be legally entitled to compensation for the symptoms you suffer as the result of that accident. Tell any healthcare providers who treat you exactly when you started noticing symptoms.
How Should You Deal With an Insurance Company?
As soon as you’ve been treated and released, arrange to meet with a Maryland personal injury lawyer. You’ll soon be contacted by the negligent party’s insurance company, and you must be able to refer all of their questions to your attorney.
Do not even speak to the negligent party’s insurance company. Make no formal statement, sign no documents, and don’t accept a quick settlement offer. Do not sign a medical release form. That allows an insurance company to look for information that can be used against you.
The negligent party’s insurance company will look for any possible reason to reject your injury claim or reduce its value. A pre-existing injury or a previous medical condition may be the reason that the company seizes on to deny your claim.
The right attorney can limit an insurance company’s access to your medical records. Eventually, you’ll need to disclose any pre-existing injury or previous medical condition, but your attorney knows how to do that in a way that will support your injury claim.
What is the Eggshell Injury Doctrine?
If you’ve been seriously injured, you will need a personal injury lawyer’s help to acquire the full amount of compensation that you are legally entitled to, need, and deserve.
Maryland is one of the states that recognize a legal principle called the “eggshell injury doctrine” in personal injury cases. Let’s say that you were cleared by your doctor to return to work after major heart surgery. While driving to work the next day, another driver crashes into you.
It’s not a serious accident, and a younger or healthier person would not have been seriously injured, but after your heart surgery, the accident causes a serious cardiac episode, and you’re now facing expensive medical bills and a long recovery period.
The negligent driver, of course, could not have known about your pre-existing heart condition. Can that driver be held liable for your medical bills and other expenses? Under the eggshell injury doctrine, the answer is yes.
How Much Will Justice Cost?
When you are injured by negligence in Maryland, you are entitled to full compensation. It doesn’t matter if you are suffering from old injuries or if you are the subject of ongoing medical treatment.
If you are injured by negligence in Maryland, you can discuss your case with a Bethesda personal injury lawyer at no cost and with no obligation. You’ll need personalized advice regarding how the law applies to your own case.
If you take legal action to hold the negligent party accountable and seek compensation, you will pay no attorney’s fee until and unless your personal injury lawyer prevails on your behalf and acquires the compensation – and the justice – that you will need.