If someone causes you to suffer a personal injury due to his or her negligence, that person is generally liable for your medical bills and other expenses. But in real life, injury cases are usually not this simple. A number of factors make injury cases more complicated, and one such factor is an injury victim who had a pre-existing condition. A skilled personal injury lawyer can explain how that condition may impact your case.
Put simply, a pre-existing condition is some health problem that you suffered before a personal injury happened. In the context of personal injury law, this usually arises where an accident aggravates some problem the victim suffered before ever coming into contact with the defendant. From the victim’s perspective, the at-fault defendant made the injury, condition, or illness worse. But from the defendant’s viewpoint (and that of his or her insurance company and lawyer), the victim was already suffering and there’s no reason to believe the accident made it any worse.
It’s true that to the extent you, the victim, suffered from something before the accident, that by itself is not the responsibility of the at-fault party. The defendant isn’t responsible for compensating you for something he or she didn’t cause. The difficulty is assessing whether the victim’s condition really was made worse by the defendant, or whether the condition was essentially the same before and after the accident (and therefore not the responsibility of the defendant).
Why a Pre-Existing Condition Can Complicate Your Case
Bear in mind that the defendant’s insurance company is going to look for any reason whatsoever to deny a payout to you. And discovering that you had a pre-existing condition is like striking gold. Of course, the insurance company doesn’t get the last word. If it’s true that the negligent defendant aggravated your pre-existing injury, Maryland law allows that person to be held liable for the pain and suffering and medical expenses that go along with it.
One thing to know is that trying to hide your pre-existing condition will almost certainly backfire. If it’s discovered that you worked to conceal your condition, or withheld certain information, you’ll give the insurance company all the excuse it needs to turn your claim down. And rarely will a victim who does this look good in court. So be upfront about your medical history to your physician and to your attorney.
Establishing whether the negligent defendant aggravated your pre-existing condition will likely require expert witness testimony. A medical expert can evaluate a number of different factors (e.g. when the accident happened versus when the victim experienced the original condition) to determine whether the accident made that condition worse.
Naturally, the defendant will have the right to bring in his or her own expert witness to rebut yours. Substantial compensation could be hanging in the balance, so you want an aggressive and dedicated Maryland personal injury lawyer who knows what to look for in an expert witness.
Don’t be surprised if the insurance company lawyers decide to subpoena all or a significant portion of your medical records. It’s likely to happen, and to some extent, the lawyers have a right to see this information. Again, be upfront with your medical provider and your attorney about your medical history. That way your lawyer can decide how best to handle a request for records.
Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP represents personal injury victims, including victims who suffer from pre-existing conditions. Reach out to us today if you’ve been hurt.