Do Pre-Existing Conditions/Injuries Bar Recovery?

In the context of a personal injury claim, a pre-existing condition/injury is a physical or mental condition that exists to some degree before the incident giving rise to the personal injury claim.  Insurance companies through their propaganda have indoctrinated many potential jurors with the belief that all pre-existing conditions are not compensable and that plaintiffs with any pre-existing condition are trying to fraudulently have someone else pay for a physical or mental condition/injury that pre-existed the alleged injury causing event.

Such beliefs are unfairly prejudicial and contrary to Florida law.  The Florida Standard Jury Instruction, No. 501.5(a), addressing this issue states as follows:

If you find that the defendant caused a bodily injury, and that the injury resulted in an aggravation of an existing disease or physical defect or activation of a latent disease or physical defect, you should attempt to decide what portion of claimant’s condition resulted from the aggravation or activation. If you can make that determination, then you should award only those damages resulting from the aggravation or activation. However, if you cannot make that determination, or if it cannot be said that the condition would have existed apart from the injury, then you should award damages for the entire condition suffered by claimant.

 An example of one of the most common pre-existing conditions that is compensable under Florida Standard Jury Instruction No. 501.5(a), is degeneration of the spine through the normal aging process often referred to as degenerative disc disease which can be seen on a radiographic study but more often than not is non-symptomatic, causing no pain or physical limitations.  Thus, a person with degenerative disc disease can seek damages if that “pre-existing condition” becomes activated in a car crash caused by someone else.

Another common form of pre-existing conditions that are compensable under Florida law are those conditions/injuries that a person is aware of but they have either resolved or are controlled when a new event occurs causing the condition/injury to become re-activated or made worse.  Under this scenario a person who suffered an injury to their spine which had healed but was re-aggravated or activated  by a trip and fall could bring a claim to seek damages for the re-aggravation or activation of the prior spine injury.

Therefore, contrary to insurance industry propaganda people with a pre-existing condition/injury are permitted to recover for the harms and losses caused when a new event causes new pain to a pre-existing condition/injury or re-aggravation or activation of a pre-existing injury/condition.  The only time a pre-existing condition/injury precludes recovery is when the injury/pain/symptoms is/are the same before the incident as it is after the new incident giving rise to the claim.

If you had a prior injury and have recently suffered a new injury or been re-injured due to the negligence of another and want to understand your rights under Florida law, please call Zele Huber Trial Attorneys, P.A. and speak with one of our attorneys at (561) 630-9700 or toll free at (877) 345-9797.