The Personal Injury Blog

Acceleration of pre-existing conditions

But, I’ve never had any problems with my back before….

This is a phrase we hear quite often from clients who have been seen by medical experts who say that their injury is an “acceleration or exacerbation of a pre-existing condition” which has become symptomatic several years earlier than it otherwise would have done had the accident not have taken place. The most common examples relate to back pain.

I have recently had a similar situation for a claim for a lady in her early fifties who fell as a result of a defect in the street. As a result, she suffered a back injury. After many months of hard work, we were able to secure an admission of liability from the Defendant and proceed to instruct a suitable expert to see her and prepare a report on her injuries. This was to assist us in establishing if we could obtain any further treatment for her but more importantly, to assist us in valuing the amount her claim was worth. Unfortunately, our expert advised that this was an acceleration of a pre-existing condition which she did not know she had. Our expert believed that the accident had brought on her symptoms by a period of 5 years.

It can be very difficult for people to comprehend this if they have been active, healthy and pain free before the accident took place.

The impact of such a situation on a claim means that a client may only claim for the injuries and consequential losses during the period of acceleration or exacerbation. This can severely affect the value of a claim. The compensation for a permanent injury is significantly less than a 5 year acceleration injury. For example, a claimant in their fifties may only be able to claim for a few years lost earnings and consequential losses for an acceleration claim but, may be able to claim for 20 years lost earnings if the injury was permanent and caused by the accident and would not occurred had the accident not have taken place.

This can be quite difficult for clients to accept particularly as they had no symptoms before the accident.

In order to obtain an accurate report of an injury, we always instruct specialised experts to see clients and prepare medical reports to ensure clients will obtain the most accurate prognosis periods.

The experts we instruct will usually examine clients before reviewing medical notes, x-rays and radiology discs to look for evidence of any pre-existing conditions. For example, if a client visits their GP with back pain prior to the accident taking place, this implies they had pre-existing injuries even though they may not have been suffering any discomfort at the time of the accident.

It is quite surprising that most people over the age of 35 will have some evidence of spinal degeneration that will be detected on a scan but will have no knowledge of this.

Once an expert has obtained all the necessary information, they will form an opinion based on their expert knowledge. Of course opinions can differ somewhat and if necessary, we may obtain second reports for clients who are not happy with the first. However, the responsibility of paying for the additional report will lie with the client should the first report seem to be factually correct.

It is always important therefore to advise your legal representative at the outset of any pre-existing conditions which may affect claims as they progress.

Luckily, we were able to secure a favourable outcome for our client. We were able to arrange rehabilitation in the form of physiotherapy before settling the claim for a modest sum.

Should you, or anybody you know have been involved in an accident, please do not hesitate to contact us. You can either email or call 0114 218 4000.

Jonathan Stittle

Jonathan Stittle, head of our personal injury department, joined Taylor&Emmet in 1986 and became a partner a year later. He studied law in Oxford and Chester and has been a member of the Law Society’s personal injury panel since it was formed in 1994. For more information on this topic email or call him on 0114 218 4049.

2 thoughts on “Acceleration of pre-existing conditions

  1. I have been with a solicitor for a year and their medical specialist only accepted my soft tissue damage- because of my pre existing condition of stenosis of L4/5 – I used to have 2 part time jobs/walked my dog/ shopped etc. Now I am 95% housebound and have a wheelchair- I fell off a rotted bench (you couldn’t tell) and the garden centre admitted liability- would your company consider taking on such a case ?

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