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Do My Prior Medical Problems Prevent Me from Bringing a Personal Injury Claim

Whether your prior medical problems will prevent you from bringing an injury claim in Florida depends on several factors.

Unrelated Pre-existing Injuries

The first place to start is to identify whether your pre-existing medical problems overlap the injuries you are claiming in your accident claim. If your injuries do not overlap, they should have little effect on your injury claim. The exception to this is if your pre-existing medical problem altered your ability to do something you say you cannot do now because of your accident-related injury. In other words, say you hurt your back in a car accident and you say you can now no longer run like you used to. However, if you fractured your ankle in an unrelated fall-down incident years before your accident claim, the insurance company will say your inability to run is not due to your recent accident. Instead, they will blame it on your prior injury. If you had prior unrelated shoulder surgery but after a recent accident, you now claim you cannot lift weights, the insurance company will focus on the limitations you already had before the accident.

Even if your pre-existing medical condition did contribute to your current injury, you may still be entitled to recover damages for the portion of your injury that is directly attributable to the accident.  Florida Standard Jury Instruction 401.12(b), addresses “concurring cause.”  The instruction states, in part: Negligence may be a legal cause of the loss, injury, or damage, even though it operates in combination with … some natural cause … if the negligence contributes substantially to producing the loss, injury, or damage.  Under this instruction, if the negligence substantially contributes to your injury, even though you had an underlying medical condition, you are still able to make a claim for a permanent aggravation of your medical condition.

Egg-Shell Plaintiffs

Florida follows what is known as the “Eggshell Plaintiff” Rule. This means that a person who is injured in an accident is entitled to full compensation for all injuries the person sustained, even if they are more severe than they would have been compared to a person without pre-existing injuries. A frail elderly person should not be penalized for their condition just because they were more susceptible to injury than a healthy young athlete.  In other words, the fact that you had pre-existing injuries should not prevent you from bringing a claim for the injuries you sustained in the incident.

Can’t tell the difference

Insurance companies and defense attorneys may try to argue that your pre-existing injuries were so significant compared to any injuries you sustained in a recent accident that is difficult to identify what, if anything, changed.  They look for any prior similar complaints of pain and/or similar treatment in an attempt to convince the jury that the post-accident care was a continuation of something the plaintiff had long before the collision.

The Plaintiff Returned to Their Previous Level of Discomfort

One tactic we have seen from defense experts is to admit that some post-accident treatment was reasonable and necessary.  They do this to gain favor with the jury.  However, they go on to say that at some point in time during our client’s treatment, the client returned to their prior level of discomfort that the expert assumes the client was suffering from before the collision.  We have seen them do this with clients who never needed injections, nerve medication, or pain medication before the accident.  Yet, the expert states, based on prior medical records and age-related changes in our client’s spine, the client was going to end up in pain management or in need of pain/nerve-related medicine at some point in the future.   

In summary, having pre-existing injuries should not prevent you from bringing an injury claim in Florida but it may make the process more complicated. This is where having an experienced Jacksonville Personal Injury Attorney can be helpful.  We can help you gather the evidence necessary to prove that your current injuries are related to the incident and that your pre-existing injuries should not prevent you from receiving fair and full compensation.  Give one of our Rosenberg & Calvin, P.A. attorneys a call.

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