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Can I claim if an accident made an existing medical condition worse?Go back to all FAQs

It is possible to pursue a claim in the event that a pre-existing medical condition, illness or injury is made worse or aggravated by an accident or someone else's negligence.

Demonstrating this can be more difficult than proving a straightforward injury, so legal and medical advice should be sought as early as possible.

Seek medical advice ASAP

It is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible after the accident to establish the accident as the cause of the deterioration. The results of a medical examination can prove to be invaluable evidence if you decide to make a claim.

The cost of medical treatment, including additional physiotherapy, can generally be included in a claim for compensation, so you should keep proof of any costs relating to this treatment, such as travel expenses.

The more time that elapses between the accident and the medical examination, the more difficult it can become to prove that the deterioration, additional pain or loss of faculties or movement was caused by the accident.

A solicitor can advise on how to proceed with medical evidence if you are unsure.

The eggshell skull rule, or thin skull rule

The eggshell skull rule (also known as the thin skull rule or 'you take your victim as you find them' rule) is a legal principle that allows a Defendant to be held liable in certain scenarios.

These situations include where the Defendant's negligence would in most cases cause only minor injuries, but in the Claimant's case, the injuries are more serious due to an existing condition or predisposition.

The name implies the rule only applies to head injuries, but the principle has been successfully applied in many cases.

For example, a drunk driver's actions may cause a minor collision that results in another driver sustaining a heart attack due to an existing condition. The drunk driver may be liable for both any minor injuries sustained, and also the unlikely heart attack.

It would need to be proven that the attack arose from the accident. This applies even if the Claimant was unaware that they had a heart condition before the accident.

Making a claim if the onset of a medical condition is accelerated

It is also possible to claim in the event that an accident accelerates the onset of an illness or medical condition. Again, it is important to seek medical advice as early as possible.

This can occur in cases where an employee sustains hearing loss after working in a loud environment. A doctor may determine that due to various factors some hearing loss would have occurred anyway as the employee grew older, but hat the noisy workplace accelerated the decline in hearing.

In such a situation, compensation is often paid on the basis of loss of amenity for the period between the early onset of the condition, and the time that the condition would have arisen anyway. This can be difficult to calculate, but the process is made easier with medical evidence taken soon after the accident occurred.

More information

The application of these principles can vary widely, so if you have any questions, you may ask a member of Quittance's solicitor panel. Call 0800 612 7456 or request a callback for more information.