The Importance of Understanding Pre-Existing Conditions in Any Personal Injury Claim

If you’re injured in an accident and considering a compensation claim, it is important to disclose any pre-existing injuries or conditions you suffer from so that your new injury, or an aggravation of an old injury, can be accurately assessed.

The criteria for a pre-existing injury or condition are set out in legislation in each state and territory of Australia. While this type of injury is most commonly raised in the context of a workers’ compensation claim, similar definitions also apply to other compensation matters including CTP claims for motor vehicle accidents and public liability claims.

Whiplash Injury With Pre-Existing Condition

In workers’ compensation matters, for an aggravation of a pre-existing injury or condition to be compensable, the employment must have contributed to the aggravation or ailment to a significant degree. In this type of claim, a pre-existing injury or condition refers to an injury, illness or medical condition that you had during the process of applying for a job that you suspect, or ought to reasonably suspect, would be aggravated by doing the job. This is particularly relevant to those working in jobs where manual labor is required, but can equally apply to those with a psychological condition such as depression that is aggravated by a person’s employment.

For other types of compensation, such as falling and injuring yourself at a shopping center, the claim becomes more complex if you had a pre-existing injury or condition that is now aggravated. Insurance companies will often try to deny liability for the injury from the accident by using medical assessments to show a pre-existing injury or medical condition is more responsible for the harm suffered.

The right way to approach a pre-existing injury or condition

It’s highly advisable you disclose any pre-existing injury or condition to a prospective employer. Some employers will specifically ask for these details during the application process. While it’s not true that a prospective employee who fails to disclose a pre-existing injury is then barred from making a worker’s compensation claim if they aggravate the injury at work, failure to do so can certainly make success of the claim more difficult and ultimately affect the amount of compensation available.

Likewise, you may have been hired before you knew about the condition, or before you were asked to tell the employer about any pre-existing injury, paving the way for a compensation claim if you aggravate the earlier condition at work.

Having a degenerative disease, an old sporting injury, or depression, for example, does not prevent you from lodging a workers’ compensation claim and accessing weekly statutory benefits, medical expenses, and a potential lump sum damages payout.

Importantly, it’s not necessary to prove that an underlying pre-existing condition is work-related, only that your employment caused ‘a recurrence, aggravation, acceleration, exacerbation or deterioration of the pre-existing condition.

Whiplash injury with pre-existing condition

Similarly for a motor vehicle accident claim, a pre-expre existing injury aggravated at workisting injury aggravated by the accident, such as a whiplash injury, for example, does not prevent a compensation claim but may limit the settlement amount if successful.

Some of the factors considered when working out whether your employment was a significant contributing factor to the worsening of a pre-existing injury include:

  • Duration of current employment;
  • nature of the work performed;
  • tasks involved in performing the work;
  • probable development of the injury occurring if the employment had not taken place;
  • existence of any hereditary risks;
  • claimant’s lifestyle; and
  • the claimant’s activities outside of the workplace such as sports and hobbies.

The claims process and the importance of good advice

Again, it’s important to be upfront with an employer or insurer about the presence of a pre-existing injury or condition. A ‘notice of claim’ beginning the process is a statutory declaration, meaning it must contain truthful statements.

Aggravation of a pre-existing condition

Workers’ compensation laws in Australia’s states and territories oblige workers to disclose any relevant pre-existing conditions and not provide false or misleading information during their recruitment process, and deny entitlement to WorkCover benefits for any work-related aggravation of a pre-existing condition that was not disclosed.

Medical assessments are crucial in a compensation claim for injury where a pre-existing ailment exists. But again, the evidence may not be accepted as part of the claim if it was commenced without all details of the pre-existing injury disclosed at the appropriate time.

The advice of a specialist compensation lawyer is vital to the success of your claim because they are experts in investigating medical records to support your claim that you have sustained a new injury, or that your old injury or condition has been aggravated by the accident. It’s important to get the specifics right in how your employment duties, for example, contributed to making the old injury worse.

Insurance companies will usually vigorously contest compensation claims where the claimant has a pre-existing injury in order to deny liability or reduce the amount of a damages payment. What’s more, they have the financial resources to support their challenge.

For this reason, it’s sensible to put your claim in the hands of compensation experts such as Gajic Personal Injury Lawyers Perth. with a proven track record of seeing this sort of claim through to a satisfactory resolution.

We have an Experienced team of compensation lawyers who can assist you in PerthAdelaideCabramatta & Parramatta. Get legal advice from us today!