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What is the impact of pre-existing medical conditions?

What is the impact of pre-existing medical conditions on my personal injury case?

As personal injury lawyers, we often see clients who are injured in a variety of ways. Often the injuries are entirely new injuries. Other times, the injuries are exacerbation or worsening of pre-existing medical conditions or of prior injuries.
The question arises: Should you disclose the existence of pre-existing medical condition and will disclosing the pre-existing medical condition or conditions hurt your personal injury case?

In short, all medical evidence that is relevant to any of the issues in the personal injury matter must be disclosed. The existence of pre-existing medical conditions or injuries does not necessarily hurt a personal injury case. There is no need to hide any medical evidence because the law protects persons injured, even those with pre-existing medical conditions. In reality, a pre-existing medical condition that is aggravated by an accident is arguably a new injury in and of itself and is compensable - meaning you can receive compensation for an old injury made worse by a new accident. In some cases, the compensation can be more because if you had recovered from the pre-existing injury and it is aggravated, the injury sustained is often much worse.

How does the legal principle of exacerbation of a pre-existing medical condition work?

If a person is injured because of another person’s negligence, the injured person can recover damages and compensation from the person responsible. That person is called a tortfeasor. The tortfeasor will be held liable for the aggravation of the pre-existing medical condition and for any new injuries sustained.

There is a well established legal principle in Canadian law called “a tortfeasor takes his victim as he finds him” and therefore, anyone who suffers an aggravation of a pre-existing injury can recover damages and compensation. That legal principle applies hand in hand with the principle of a “thin skull” Plaintiff (a Plaintiff is the injured person in a law suit). That principle applies in cases where someone is particularly weak and suffers a much greater injury than other people may have suffered in a similar accident. For example, many people fall and are not injured. Some other people may fall and fracture their leg, simply because they are more prone to injury than other people, perhaps because of weak bones or pre-existing injuries or particular disabilities such as arthritis.

Are the rules applied the same in every case? Showing symptoms versus no symptoms prior to accident.

In practical terms, the rules will be applied differently depending on whether, before the accident, the injured person demonstrated symptoms of the pre-existing medical condition. In the event the injured person’s pre-existing medical condition is aggravated, the tortfeasor will have to provide full compensation, despite there being a pre-existing medical condition. In the event the injured person’s pre-existing medical condition is aggravated, but the injured person was experiencing pain or other symptoms prior to the accident and new injury, the tortfeasor will have to provide some compensation, despite there being a pre-existing medical condition. The amount of compensation is directly proportionate to the level of aggravation of the pre-existing medical condition.

This article provides a summary of the principles at play where pre-existing medical conditions is in issue. The matter is more complicated than explained in this article. At Quinn Thiele Mineault Grodzki LLP, we regularly deal with issues such as this and we are happy to provide free consultations for any personal injury case. The information in this article is not intended to replace legal advice. For more information and a free consultation on your accident or personal injury matter, contact us at 613-315-HURT or 613-315-4878.