How does a pre-existing injury affect a car accident claim?

Pre existing condition

In any personal injury accident claim, insurance companies look for reasons to offer you a low settlement. If a pre-existing injury exists, they might use this when determining an offer. But having a pre-existing condition or prior injury does not mean you do not have a claim or have not suffered trauma. Being in a car accident can worsen an existing injury and contribute to the treatment you need.

Pre-Existing Conditions

pre existing injury car accident pre existing condition

The question is not whether you have a pre-existing medical condition. What matters is whether the accident caused further harm to the injury, exacerbating the problem, and making it worse.

In general, a negligent person is responsible for all injuries that are caused by their wrongful actions. If the accident results in a shoulder injury, the negligent party would be liable for all consequences of that injury; but not if the shoulder injury occurred at some point before the accident.

However, the accident could have exacerbated your existing shoulder injury causing you to need additional treatment (possibly surgery and/or rehabilitation) that was not required prior to the accident.

Pre-Existing Conditions and Your Claim

You cannot make a claim for the original injury, only for any additional treatment necessary due to the accident.

With a pre-existing injury, you (the plaintiff) must show the accident was the proximate cause of the aggravation of the condition. In other words, you must prove that without the accident, the additional treatment (i.e., surgery and rehabilitation) would not be necessary.

Proximate cause is a legal term meaning that a specific outcome was the result of a certain action or chain of events.

personal injury worsen an existing injury contribute to treatment prior injuryHaving a pre-existing condition can complicate your case. For instance, you will want to:

  • Talk with your doctors about all your injuries, including anything pre-existing, so that they can determine if the accident made it worse, resulting in the need for additional treatment.
  • Talk with your attorneys. They will want to look at medical records that include a doctor’s assessment of prior conditions, such as records that show what stage of recovery you are in making it easier to determine if you have suffered a  setback. They will also want to look at your abilities and lifestyle and whether they have changed since the accident.

Insurance companies may try to attribute as much of any additional treatment to the original pre-existing condition or prior injury as possible.

Eggshell Skull Rule

Missouri follows the eggshell skull rule. This was created to protect individuals who suffer from pre-existing injuries.

Under this rule, defendants have to take plaintiffs as they find them. That means, a defendant will still be liable to pay damages for the severity of the injuries that they cause regardless of the victim’s previous condition or weakened state. “If a defendant negligently injures someone, the defendant is responsible for all the consequences, whether they were foreseeable or not.”

Individuals with pre-existing injuries have the ability to pursue compensation after an accident even in cases in which a person’s injuries would not have been bad if not for those pre-existing conditions. People with pre-existing conditions must be able to demonstrate that the condition was made worse by the accident and that no reason existed to believe the victim’s condition would get worse before the accident.

Common Pre-Existing Conditions

Common pre-existing conditions that could be exacerbated after an accident.

  • Herniated disc
  • Lower back problems
  • Neck injuries
  • Hernias
  • Shoulder or knee injuries
  • Head injuries
  • Broken bones or fractures
  • Joint pain
  • and many others



attorney lawyer personal injury accident claim

If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident making your pre-existing medical conditions worse, having an attorney who is your advocate can offer you peace of mind during your recovery. Call Nash & Franciskato at (877) 284-6600.

One of our experienced staff will speak with you personally and will provide you with a free, no-obligation review of your case.



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