Pre-existing conditions: How they can affect a personal injury claim
30 Mar 2020
Having a pre-existing medical condition doesn’t invalidate your legal rights if you’re injured due to medical malpractice or another party’s negligence. However, it’s important to know how a pre-existing condition can affect a personal injury claim.
What you can and can’t claim
In a personal injury case, you can claim compensation for damages that are a direct result of the relevant injury.
You can’t, of course, claim compensation for a pre-existing injury, illness or disease.
However, you CAN claim compensation for aggravation of a pre-existing condition.
For instance, if an accident caused by another party’s negligence makes an existing spinal condition worse, you can claim compensation for this.
The so-called “eggshell skull rule”
The eggshell skull rule says that an individual’s medical status at the time of an accident can’t be used as a defence to limit liability.
For example, say an elderly person with a hip replacement slips on a wet floor in a supermarket. No warning signage is present, and the floor is wet due to a spill that hasn’t been cleaned up.
The eggshell skull rule specifies that the supermarket’s liability for the accident isn’t any less simply because the claimant was less mobile.
Effects of pre-existing conditions on personal injury claims
There’s no denying that a pre-existing condition can add to the complexity of a personal injury case.
Even for medical experts, it can be tricky to separate out the physical effects of separate injuries or conditions.
This shouldn’t deter individuals from pursuing compensation, in accordance with their legal rights. However, it can add to the length of the claims process.
Importance of accurately declaring pre-existing conditions
It’s vital to be honest and to declare any pre-existing conditions in full.
During the course of a personal injury claim, your attorney will need to present a full, documented medical history of any pre-existing condition, including its diagnosis and treatment.
Medical experts will then have to distinguish between your pre-existing condition, aggravation of this condition and separate accident-related injuries.
The results will help determine the validity of the claim and any appropriate compensation.
Getting expert legal representation
Personal injury claims that involve pre-existing conditions are complex and rely on expert legal and medical knowledge.
It’s highly recommended that you consult an attorney who specialises in personal injury claims. Ideally, the attorney or firm you choose should also have access to qualified medical experts who specialise in the relevant condition or injury.
Personal injury claims with DSC Attorneys
At DSC Attorneys, our attorneys and medico-legal team have extensive experience in handling personal injury claims, including claims that involve pre-existing medical conditions.
We work on a no win, no fee basis and can give you the best chance of receiving the compensation you deserve.
- Medical Malpractice in South Africa
- Beware of touts in South African hospitals: What to watch out for
- Deathly negligence and jail time for doctors, engineers and directors