At Pipella Law, we often see people who suffered with pre-existing conditions. A pre-existing condition is just that: a condition that existed prior to an accident. This “condition” may include a “formal diagnosis”, including a concussion, with recurring symptoms, like headaches. Understandably, many people involved in a personal injury claim want to know if a pre-existing condition will affect the value of their claim.
It will, but a lot depends on the nature of the pre-existing condition. If the pre-existing condition is one that makes you a “thin-skull” plaintiff, the impact on your claim will be less significant. If your condition makes you a “crumbling skull” plaintiff, the effect on your claim will be more damaging.
A “thin-skull plaintiff” is someone with a pre-existing condition, which may not have even caused issues, until the accident happened. The individual’s “skull” is “thin”, so to speak, and they are more likely than the average person to suffer from symptoms due to the accident. One example is a person with degenerative discs in their neck prior to an accident which do not cause pain. After the accident happens, they now suffer from neck pain every day. That person is “thin-skulled” because of their pre-existing neck condition. As a result, that person may be more likely to suffer neck pain because of an accident.
Someone whose condition would have deteriorated regardless of their accident is called a “crumbling skull” plaintiff. Defense lawyers often argue that a plaintiff would have suffered from the same symptoms, even if the accident had not occurred. In other words, the plaintiff would have continued “crumbling”, even without the accident. If, for example, you had progressively worsening depression in the year before your car accident, and your depression continued worsening after the accident, it is hard to say the accident caused your condition. This type of pre-existing condition could significantly devalue your claim.
This is why your medical records are so important. People may believe they have no pre-existing issues, only to find years of physical or emotional complaints documented in their medical records. Conversely, medical records can help prove that you had no pre-existing condition, or that a pre-existing condition was not causing you problems at the time of the accident. A single visit to your doctor about a headache 5 years before your accident, is unlikely to have a negative impact on a concussion claim. However, regular headache complaints leading up to the accident will be more problematic.
If you have been injured in an accident, and you have questions about a pre-existing condition, give our team of lawyers at Pipella Law a call at 403.265.8733.