Will a Pre-Existing Condition Affect My Personal Injury Claim?

If you were recently involved in an accident such as a car crash or slip and fall as someone with a pre-existing condition, this can make it more difficult to collect financial damages from the at-fault party. The other driver’s insurance company may try to use your pre-existing injury against you to diminish or deny benefits. Learn the laws surrounding pre-existing conditions in Arizona to better protect your rights.

Examples of Pre-Existing Conditions

A pre-existing condition describes any type of health issue or injury that existed prior to the accident listed on a personal injury claim. It can refer to an old injury from a previous accident, a medically diagnosed health condition or a genetic predisposition. The most common pre-existing conditions in the U.S. are:

  • Healed bone fractures
  • Muscle sprains and strains
  • Concussions
  • Back and neck injuries
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Epilepsy or seizures
  • Asthma
  • Pregnancy
  • Hypertension

A pre-existing condition can refer to both physical ailments and mental health disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression. If you have any type of pre-existing injury or condition, it is important to consult with a personal injury attorney during your claim, as it may be harder to recover.

What Is the “Eggshell Skull” Rule?

The main legal doctrine surrounding pre-existing injuries and conditions is the Eggshell Skull Rule. In essence, this rule states that it is the at-fault party’s (defendant’s) responsibility to take the injured party (plaintiff) as he or she was at the time of the accident. The rule earns its name from a common example of a plaintiff with a skull as thin as an eggshell.

If a plaintiff has a rare condition that makes his or her skull extraordinary thin, the defendant’s liability will not be reduced because of the plaintiff’s vulnerability to a serious injury. Even if the plaintiff suffered a more severe brain injury than the average plaintiff would have, the defendant will be liable for the full amount of the plaintiff’s losses. The Eggshell Skull Rule states that a defendant must take the plaintiff as he or she found the plaintiff – even if this is more fragile or prone to an uncommon reaction than the average person.

It is important to note, however, that the Eggshell Skull Rule does not mean a defendant is liable for putting the plaintiff in a better position than he or she was before the accident. The defendant will only be responsible for making the victim whole again. For example, if the plaintiff had a pre-existing back injury, the defendant would not be liable for a surgery to fix the back injury if the surgery was not for injuries connected to the accident.

Can I Recover Compensation With a Pre-Existing Condition?

The Eggshell Skull Rule protects plaintiffs from being punished for pre-existing conditions. This doctrine states that just because a person is more susceptible to serious injuries than someone else, it does not mean he or she is exempt from full and fair financial compensation. If you had a pre-existing condition at the time of your personal injury accident, you could still recover financial compensation from the at-fault party or parties.

Unfortunately, insurance companies in Arizona make it difficult for victims with pre-existing conditions to recover financial compensation for the full extent of their losses. Insurance companies have legal teams designed to avoid large payouts. The insurance company may try to argue that you had the injury you are claiming before the accident. If you can prove that the accident exacerbated a pre-existing condition or vice versa, however, the defendant will still owe you for your losses.

If an insurance company denies your injury claim based on a pre-existing condition, hire an attorney to help you argue for a fair outcome. The claims denial may be wrongful or an example of insurance bad faith. A personal injury attorney can help you use the Eggshell Skull Rule to protect your rights and pursue fair financial compensation, regardless of your type of pre-existing condition.