Can I still make a claim if I was previously hurt in the same part of my body?

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I get this question all the time from clients, and the answer is yes.  What we are talking about is a pre-existing injury or condition.  A pre-existing injury is an injury to a part of the body that was previously hurt or had an ongoing medical condition at the time of an accident.  I regularly have new clients who have a pre-existing injury and it can cause problems when making a claim for the injuries from the accident.
So you’ve been injured. You were in a car accident, trucking accident, slip and fall, or some other type of incident, and you are injured in a part of your body that had previously been injured or hurt. Not to worry! Prevailing urban legends say you can’t recover anything because of this. But that’s not entirely true. After the incident, do these following things to help your case:

Communication is Key

Perhaps most importantly, communicate! With everyone! Your medical providers must know what prior symptoms you’ve had. For example, if you’ve had lower back pain previously but you’ve been symptom-free for years, tell your doctor! Its imperative to make it clear to your doctor, nurse, chiropractor, or medical provider that that the back pain caused by the accident is the first back pain you have had since then, and that it started immediately after the accident. Communicating to your medical providers will only help your case.

History of Treatment

There are situations where clients are actively treating for low back pain and a collision occurs. Or situations where clients have treated with doctors for years and they are injured. Again, you must make clear to your treating medical providers the extent the pain is different or more intense. For example, your low back may have been hurt before, but now it hurts 10 times worse. And you have pain radiating into your legs. You must tell your medical provider specifically where the pain is, and the intensity of it. If you are not specific, it will be very difficult to explain your pain levels to the insurance company.

Honesty is the Best Policy

This should go without saying, but you must be completely honest with your attorney about your medical history!  If your attorney knows about pre-existing health issues relevant to your claims, he or she will be in a better position to explain to the insurance company (and ultimately the jury) how your injuries from the accident are different from what you experienced in the past.

Trust your Attorney

Because you told your lawyer about your complete medical history, he or she can ensure that all court documents properly disclose that history. You must also testify truthfully about the same history when you give a deposition. By doing these things, the insurance company may be aware of your history, but it won’t be able to call into question your credibility at trial. Losing credibility at trial is an absolute death blow to an injury case. If a jury thinks a person making the claim for damages is hiding something, or has lied about a prior problem, the jury will punish the person by returning a low verdict. If you are up-front about your medical history with your attorney this is very unlikely to happen.

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