Impact of Pre-Existing Conditions on Personal Injury Claims in South Carolina

July 2, 2024
Savage, Royall & Sheheen

Personal injury claims, even seemingly straightforward ones, can quickly become complex, especially when pre-existing medical conditions are at play. Insurance companies may prolong the compensation process, minimize your injuries, and create obstacles to make the ordeal as challenging as possible.

Some people might be tempted to conceal pre-existing conditions from the insurance company.

However, transparency is crucial for building a strong case in your favor despite potential challenges from insurers scrutinizing claims involving prior injuries.

An experienced Camden personal injury attorney can take some of the stress away. We can navigate your case’s complexities, illustrating clearly to the insurance company how the accident aggravated your pre-existing conditions.

Understanding Pre-Existing Conditions: Definitions and Examples

So, how do insurance companies determine pre-existing conditions? A pre-existing condition is any medical condition that existed before the incident or accident for which you are filing a personal injury claim. These conditions can range widely, including:

  • Chronic illnesses
  • Past injuries, or
  • Long-standing medical issues.

The presence of these conditions can complicate personal injury claims, as it requires distinguishing between the effects of the pre-existing condition and the new injuries sustained from the accident.

Here are a few common examples of pre-existing conditions that might impact a personal injury claim:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Hypertension
  • Muscle issues
  • Previous accident injuries
  • Osteoporosis
  • Arthritis
  • Mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety
  • Back or neck injuries
  • Pregnancy
  • Previous surgeries or medical procedures

Legal Implications of Personal Injury Claims With a Pre-Existing Condition in South Carolina

Personal injury claims with a pre-existing condition can complicate the pursuit of fair compensation. However, South Carolina law provides clear guidelines for treating these conditions in personal injury claims.

The “Eggshell Plaintiff” Rule

South Carolina adheres to the “eggshell plaintiff” or “eggshell skull rule,” a legal doctrine that plays a significant role in cases involving pre-existing conditions. Under this principle, a defendant is responsible for all the injury they cause, regardless of any pre-existing conditions that may make the plaintiff more vulnerable to injury. This rule ensures that the at-fault party cannot invoke a plaintiff’s pre-existing condition as a defense to reduce their liability.

For example, if an individual with fragile bones sustains injuries in a slip and fall incident, the responsible party can be held entirely accountable for those injuries. This accountability remains even if a person with normal bone density might not have suffered as severe injuries under the same circumstances.

Proving the Aggravation of Pre-Existing Conditions

To successfully claim compensation for an aggravated pre-existing condition, it’s essential to provide compelling evidence that the accident directly worsened your existing condition.

Our South Carolina personal injury attorneys will thoroughly examine the circumstances of your accident, the extent of your injuries, and how those injuries have affected your life. We will use this to construct a compelling case in your favor. Furthermore, we will gather evidence from various sources, including:

  • Medical records
  • Objective diagnostic tests like X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, and other tests that provide clear visual evidence of the progression of your injury
  • Statements from expert witnesses
  • A detailed journal documenting your daily symptoms and levels of pain
  • Records from your employer if there have been changes in your ability to perform work-related tasks or if you have missed work due to your injury
  • Witness statements that illustrate how your daily life has been impacted, including challenges in personal care, childcare, driving, and participation in recreational activities or hobbies

With this information, we can effectively demonstrate how your physical capabilities and pain levels have evolved since the accident compared to before.

Dealing With Insurance Adjusters and Defense Tactics

Insurance adjusters represent insurance companies whose primary goal is to minimize payouts on claims. They often employ various tactics to achieve this, particularly when pre-existing conditions are involved.

Common tactics they may use include:

  • Denial of Claims: One of the most straightforward tactics is outright denying your claim by arguing that your injury is entirely due to your pre-existing condition, not the accident. This tactic creates doubt about the cause of your current medical issues.
  • Challenging Causation: Insurance companies might dispute the causal link between the accident and your aggravated condition, questioning whether the accident truly worsened your pre-existing condition.
  • Offering Low Settlements: Adjusters may propose settlements that do not adequately compensate for the full extent of your injuries, especially those exacerbated by the accident.
  • Disputing Liability: They might contest who was at fault for the accident or attempt to shift blame onto you or another party.

However, our skilled and experienced attorneys have strategies to counter these tactics.

How We Counter These Tactics

At Savage, Royall & Sheheen, LLP, we employ strategic approaches to counteract these tactics and ensure you receive fair compensation.

     1. Thorough Documentation

We gather evidence, including medical records, witness statements, and expert opinions, to substantiate the severity and impact of your injuries.

     2. Legal Expertise

Our personal injury attorneys are well-versed in South California personal injury law and know how to present a compelling case demonstrating the full extent of your damages.

     3. Negotiation Skills

We will negotiate with insurance adjusters, presenting a strong case backed by evidence to support your claim for maximum compensation.

     4. Litigation (When Necessary)

If a fair settlement cannot be reached through negotiation, we are prepared to take your case to court. Our trial attorneys have a proven track record of successfully advocating for our clients in litigation.

Maximizing Compensation Despite Pre-Existing Conditions

Securing fair compensation with pre-existing conditions involves a multifaceted and strategic approach. Here’s how we can help you maximize your claim:

  • Medical Evaluation: We gather a detailed medical history, including pre-existing conditions, diagnoses, treatments, and any pre-existing condition limitations before the accident. Post-accident, all medical visits, treatments, and changes in your condition are meticulously documented to show the impact of the accident on your health.
  • Documentation: We collect photographs, videos, and witness statements to visually and verbally depict the injuries and accident scene. Professional reports detail how the accident has worsened your pre-existing condition, strengthening your claim.
  • Expert Testimony: We work with specialists to establish how the accident worsens your pre-existing condition. Their testimony links your symptoms and the accident, supporting your compensation claim.
  • Legal Representation: Our experienced attorneys at Savage, Royall & Sheheen, LLP specialize in personal injury claims involving pre-existing conditions. We perform strong legal strategies, create counter-defense tactics, and negotiate settlements that reflect the true impact of the accident on your health and well-being.

Contact an Experienced South Carolina Personal Injury Lawyer Today

Even though a pre-existing condition may add complexity to your personal injury claim, it should not discourage you from pursuing justice and fair compensation. Our firm has built a reputation for excellence and dedication with over 97 years of history serving individual clients, community businesses, and local governments.

Our firm’s extensive experience and resources ensure we can handle even the most intricate personal injury cases. We are committed to advocating for your rights and maximizing your compensation.

Contact us today at 803-432-4391 in Camden, South Carolina, for a consultation and take the first step towards securing your rightful compensation.

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