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A pre-existing medical condition is exactly as it sounds – it is any medical condition that you had prior to the event giving rise to your claim of personal injuries.
For instance, as we age, our bodies wear down. Most people suffer from some sort of age-related medical condition like degenerative disease in our spine and joints, bulging discs, or osteoarthritis. Even though may not experience symptoms from these conditions, they are pre-existing conditions that can offset the value of your personal injury claim.
1) What is considered a pre-existing medical condition?
Common examples of pre-existing medical conditions that we see include:
Degenerative disc disease;
Bulging or herniated spinal discs;
2) What are common examples of pre-existing medical conditions?
An exacerbation is a flare-up of pain symptoms associated with a pre-existing condition.
Exacerbation is not a new injury.
Instead, it is a temporary increase in pain symptoms associated with a pre-existing condition that eventually subsides. If the symptoms do not subside and become permanent, the injury may be considered an aggravated pre-existing condition.
3) What is exacerbation?
A pre-existing condition is aggravated when it is permanently made worse by causing further injury to the condition.
In effect, it is a new injury to a prior condition, usually requiring new medical treatment or a change in the anticipated course of treatment for the condition.
Medically, your increase in pain symptoms are not relevant to proving an aggravating pre-existing condition unless they become permanent. Instead, diagnostic testing should be able to show that your condition has been irreparably made worse.
In other words, mere flare-up in symptoms for your pre-existing condition, even if the symptoms had been dormant, does not constitute an aggravation if the flare-up eventually subsides.
4) What is aggravation?
An aggravated pre-existing condition can be proven by showing that a new injury was caused to the condition.
This is normally proven by the medical testimony of your treating physician, as well as the medical records and diagnostic testing. Having medical documentation of your pre-existing condition is important for making this determination.
5) How to prove an aggravated pre-existing condition?
Yes, you can still be compensated for a personal injury, even if you had a pre-existing condition.
Whether you experience an exacerbation or an aggravation for a pre-existing condition, the pain symptoms you experience are compensable. That’s because ‘but for’ the at-fault party’s negligence, you would not be enduring the name pain.
As a practical matter, insurance adjusters and defense attorneys still discount the value of your injuries for pre-existing conditions, unfortunately. They know it's tough to prove an aggravated versus an exacerbated injury, and that juries are inclined to distinguish pre-existing conditions from new injuries.
6) Can I still be compensated if I have a pre-existing condition?
If you’ve only experienced exacerbated symptoms, then an insurance adjuster or defense attorney likely will not place great value on your case.
That’s because no new injury was caused to you, and your symptoms eventually resolved.
Meanwhile, aggravated pre-existing conditions are likely to be given more dignity. Since aggravated injuries are new injuries to a previous condition, insurance carriers and defense attorneys will place more value on these types of injuries.
However, a defense attorney or insurance adjuster will still view an aggravated injury at a discount since it simply made an existing condition worse. And, they will often claim an injury is simply an exacerbation until you are able to have a physician state that it is an aggravation.