Pre-existing Injury

Legal Notes


In accident cases the injured party is usually asked to report or provide details of previous injuries.  Often in back injury cases there is a certain degree of stenosis or arthritic conditions in the spine. It is important to address the condition and provide reports of pre-existing injuries early in the case. Doing so establishes credibility for the injured plaintiff. The defendants are entitled to review the earlier medical reports during the course of pre-trial discovery. Therefore it is a better strategy, in most cases, to reveal the pre-existing conditions at the outset and deal with them, rather than wait for them to be discovered. The injured party, such as one with arthritis in the back, will never have been systematic or simply he never had pain or treatment for back neck or back injuries. An accident may have exacerbated those conditions.

Disclosing the injury and relying on the law can provide a favorable result. In tort law under the “thin skull rule” a tortfeasor is liable for negligent acts that aggravate the plaintiff’s pre-existing condition or particular sensitivity to injury. As long as the plaintiff’s injuries are proximately caused by the defendant’s wrongful act, the plaintiff may recover all damages arising out of that wrongful act even though the results could not be reasonably anticipated. A tortfeasor may not defend on the grounds that plaintiff had pre-existing medical conditions which interfered with or prolonged the plaintiffs recovery. See Lebon v. B.L. & M Bottling Co., Inc. 114 R.I. 750, 339 A. 2nd 272. Aggravations of pre-existing injuries are compensable as would be an original injury and its subsequent consequences. Mangasrian v. Gould, 537 A2d403 (R.I.1987).

If there is a pre-existing condition that is exacerbated that injury for the exacerbation is compensable. If there was a condition that was dormant, skillful medical records and testimony will demonstrate that. In order to best serve the client and properly present the condition for the proper weight and value, a full history and disclosure of medical records should be reviewed by

counsel and professional staff. By doing so, any prior injuries can be handled as aggravations of those conditions. Likewise, a merely a dormant condition that did not impact the injured party until the present claim can be shown to have no previous impact, compensable as an original injury.