How Will a Prior Injury Affect My Personal Injury Claim?

August 2, 2010

Anyone who has lived a fairly active lifestyle has probably incurred an injury to their neck, back or an extremity. Unfortunately, many people have also sustained prior injuries as a result of motor vehicle accidents, slip and falls or other accidental mishaps with varying degrees of permanent impairment.

Many of my clients who seek my assistance after they have been injured as a result of a new incident often express concerns that their prior accidents and/or lingering physical impairments will devalue their new claim to such an extent that pursuing a personal injury case is a waste of time. They could not be more wrong.

Under Florida law, damages can be awarded in a personal injury case not only for any new injuries which result from an accident, but also for the “aggravation” of any pre-existing condition which the claimant had prior to the accident. In order to assist the attorney in being able to maximize the value of the case, some simple rules apply.

First, be 100% honest with the attorney about your medical history, no matter how insignificant it appears. Once a claim is made and/or a lawsuit filed, the opposing insurance company will attempt to blame your present condition entirely upon the previous injury. When I learn of prior medical issues, I immediately obtain all available records and confer with both your past and present doctors to determine what conditions are new and which symptoms are related to an aggravations of a prior condition. This is extremely important where there are prior diagnostic tests, such as x-rays or MRIs, available for comparison with more recent ones.

Secondly, your treating physicians need a comprehensive medical history to formulate their diagnosis and conclusions as to how the injury was sustained. Unfortunately, I have witnessed firsthand how a doctor’s opinions have been discredited when confronted by an insurance company’s attorney armed with medical records describing a prior injury and treatment which was not previously disclosed.

While clients sometimes lament that they must divulge their entire medical history in order to pursue a personal injury case, as their attorney I always try to reassure them that their medical history can often times prove essential in properly presenting their claim to the opposing insurance company, at mediation or at trial.