Pre-existing Conditions and How They Affect Personal Injury Claims

As each of us ages, our joints (including our spine) develop arthritic changes such as bone spurs and loss of cartilage.  For most of us, these changes occur gradually and the joint is not painful.  When someone is involved in a car crash and a joint is injured, insurance companies are quick to blame the pre-existing arthritic change for the painful joint.  They will argue that arthritic change on x-ray equals arthritis or pain in the joint.

These arguments are often persuasive to a jury.  However, if the client's prior medical records show that the client did not complain of pain in that joint, the attorney can argue that this condition did not cause any symptoms.  Doctors will verify that arthritic changes are often asymptomatic.

When the patient had prior pain in the joint, the inquiry becomes when did the patient last complain of the problem.  The more distant in time the treatment, the easier it is to show that the arthritic changes were not a source of pain at the time of the crash.  The attorney can explain that  the trauma from the crash triggered an inflammatory response in the joint that in turn caused pain.  This is a widely-recognized principle in medicine.

If the client had pain in the joint at the time of the car crash, the attorney must be able to demonstrate that the crash caused some demonstrable change.  Sometimes a clinical exam will show damage to a ligament that was not present before the crash.  If the crash caused a fracture, then this is also a verifiable injury that has exacerbated a pre-existing condition.

When x-rays or a clinical exam show no objective or verifiable changes in the condition, then the claim rises and falls with the credibility of the client.  If the client is believable and does not exaggerate the difference in the condition, a jury can still find in favor of the client on an aggravation of the pre-existing condition.   These are the most difficult claims upon which to make a recovery.

1 Comments
Thank you for your article. I found this useful. Jon A. Lafferty,Ohio Car Accident Attorney
by Jon A. Lafferty January 6, 2017 at 06:35 AM
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