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Charlotte: How Does a Preexisting Injury Impact My Personal Injury Claim?

Feb 6, 2018 Brown Moore Personal Injury

If you have been injured in a car wreck on the public roads and Interstate Highways in and around Charlotte or have suffered a slip and fall or some other injury caused by the wrongful act of another, you are entitled to seek compensation for your injuries. However, sometimes victims of the negligence of others have a preexisting condition. When this is the case, they may think: “What if I have a preexisting injury? How will that impact my personal injury claim?”

Indeed, the experienced and skilled Charlotte personal injury lawyers at Brown Moore & Associates understand the worry. We have 50 years plus of combined experience helping injured parties and their families. We know one of the most common tactics of the insurance industry is to argue that your injuries were preexisting.

However, do not let the insurance companies win. You should not be denied just compensation because of a preexisting condition. You can seek to recover compensation for any injury in North Carolina including an aggravation or exacerbation of a preexisting injury or condition.

Aggravation of Preexisting Injuries In Charlotte

It is not unusual for a preexisting injury or condition to be aggravated or made worse by a collision. Under those circumstances, the injured party is entitled to seek to recover for the aggravation of the injury. Take the North Carolina Supreme Court case of Morrison v. Burlington Industries, 282 S.E.2d 458 (1981), a workers’ compensation case. In that case, the worker worked in a textile factory. She suffered from various physical infirmities like bronchitis, phlebitis, varicose veins, and diabetes. The medical records and doctors’ reports showed all of those conditions were related to her lifestyle and NOT related to her job.

Eventually, the worker was diagnosed with chronic obstructive lung disease because of her work in the textile factory and exposure to cotton dust. She became totally unable to work and applied for workers’ compensation under the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act. At her workers’ compensation hearing, after considering all the evidence, it was held that 45 percent of her disability was a pre-existing condition—related to her lifestyle—and the remaining 55 percent was attributable to her work conditions. The workers’ compensation board awarded her 55 percent of the benefits.

This was upheld by the North Carolina Supreme Court. The Supreme Court held that an employer takes the employee as it finds him or her with all the worker’s preexisting infirmities and weaknesses. If a workplace accident or condition aggravates or accelerates a pre-existing condition, then the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance is responsible for paying benefits related to the amount that the injury was exacerbated.

Hypothetical Example At Harris Teeter

As a hypothetical example, say you are at your local Charlotte Harris Teeter and, through no fault of your own, you slip and fall on some liquid on the floor. You injure your back and break your arm. As it turns out, you have had back pain and back problems for years. However, at the same time, you have never broken your arm.

After you are taken to the hospital and after tests and examinations are completed, your doctors determine your back condition was aggravated and made worse by 30 percent. In this hypothetical, you can seek to recover from the exacerbation of the preexisting injury to your back and ALSO for the new injury to your arm. Likewise, if the pain from the injury has migrated up to your neck and shoulders, you might be able to recover from that additional pain as new injuries or further aggravations of your preexisting back injury.

Accidents In Charlotte — North Carolina Law of Negligence

Liability for accidents in Charlotte is governed by the North Carolina law of negligence. In order to establish a negligence claim, a plaintiff—the person injured in the accident—must prove: (1) a duty of care; (2) a breach of that duty; (3) proximate causation; and (4) damage or injury. A plaintiff with a preexisting condition has the burden of proving these elements as well as an aggravation of his or her preexisting injury.

With respect to preexisting conditions, elements three and four often become hotly litigated. Some defendants and insurance companies will argue there was no damage or injury AT ALL. Alternatively and in addition, the insurance companies and defense lawyers will argue the collision did not cause any additional injury or that some other cause resulted in the aggravation.

Medical Records Will Be Key In North Carolina

To prove your preexisting condition was exacerbated by the accident, medical records and doctors’ evaluations will be key. Essentially, the doctors—and the judge and jury—will be comparing your medical condition prior to the collision to your medical condition after the collision. The information, records, and examinations that may be used include:

  • Lab tests
  • X-rays, MRIs, and CAT-scans, and similar
  • Blood and other tests
  • Muscle, bone, and other tissue biopsies
  • Past and present medical records
  • Past and present medical evaluations
  • Disease/condition history–onset and progression reports and
  • Diagnosis and prognosis

If impairment of a limb or body part is at issue or if mental acuity or emotional impairment is at issue, then other examinations might be needed to assess aggravation, such as:

  • Physical impairment exams
  • Mobility tests
  • Comprehension and information processing tests
  • Emotional stability assessments and
  • Neuropsychological testing

As with many negligences and personal injury cases, your medical records will be key. You need courtroom-tested personal injury lawyers to help gather the documents and help get the correct and most useful tests and evaluations.

As discussed above with respect to Morrison v. Burlington Industries, the amount of your compensation will depend on the nature and severity of your pre-existing injury and how much the condition was aggravated by the accident. Aside from the medical records, your Charlotte personal injury lawyers will likely obtain medical professionals to render medical opinions concerning your preexisting condition and the level of aggravation.

Contact an Experienced Charlotte, North Carolina Personal Injury Attorney Today!

If you have been injured in an accident in Charlotte North Carolina, call the personal injury attorneys at Brown Moore & Associates. Your preexisting injury or condition does not prevent you from recovering the compensation to which you are entitled. To maximize the chances of achieving the best result, you will need the aid and assistance of skilled personal injury lawyers. Contact our Charlotte office today to schedule a consultation with one of our dedicated personal injury attorneys—we are here to help.