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What is the legal definition of pre-exsisting injury & when is it relevant?

Atlanta, GA |

for example there are many causes & types of back pain
so If John Q has back pain but gets in auto wreck and has more injury that now requires surgery. Would his prior back pain still be be relevant since the prior back pain did not require surgery?
certainly a person having prior pain would not allow wrongdoers a free pass to injure a person?

Attorney Answers 4


There is in not really a legal definition but it is a common term.

Georgia has an actual jury charge on this issue. You would be known as an "eggshell plaintiff." You take the victim as you find them. If you were teetering in the verge of becoming symptomatic but had no symptoms previously or had drastically less symptoms and the crash aggravates it to the point that you need surgery, then you could legally recover. Whether a jury would agree with you would depend on the prior pain documentation, whether there are objective changes on films, the severity of the crash etc.

If you are trying to negotiate and settle a case on your own, it gets very tricky with pre-existing conditions. If you need surgery, you would be well advised to consult with a lawyer. It is just too complex and there is too much as stake to wing it.

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Here is a guide that I have written on the subject:

It is next to impossible to apply the concepts to any given case without the facts, so I highly recommend that you obtain a consultation from an attorney. Personal injury attorneys nearly always give a free initial consultation.

The insurance industry’s own statistics indicate that once an attorney becomes involved, the value of any claim at least doubles.

Put those two facts together and it is in your best interest to retain experienced legal counsel at your earliest possible convenience.

I truly wish you the best.

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This answer is offered for informational purposes only. It is not offered as, and does not constitute, legal advice. Laws vary widely from state to state. You should rely only on the advice given to you during a personal consultation by a local attorney who is thoroughly familiar with state laws and the area of practice in which your concern lies. In the event that you have follow up questions, please post them directly on this site. This does not create an attorney-client relationship and the attorney does not read unsolicited emails. Thank You.

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Under Georgia law, a negligent driver is responsible for all injuries caused by his or her negligence. Furthermore, to the extent a negligent driver aggravates a pre-existing conditioon of another person, the negligent driver is liable to the extent the pre-existing condition is aggravated.

We encounter this most frequent when dealing with a person injured in a automobile collision who is at or above 40 years of age. Anyone 40 years of age or above will have degeneration of their spine. This is part of the normal aging process. However, most above 40 who have this normal aging of their spine do not exhibit any symptoms of pain, discomfort of limitation and do not require medical treatment. However, older persons are more susceptible to an aggravation injury. Thus, when talking with your physician, you need to make sure they understand that the condition or your spine (if it shows degeneration) may not have been caused by the collision but your symptoms of pain and your need for treatment were caused by the collision.

We handle all types of personal injury matters and have obtained good results even in cases where plaintiff's have had pre-existing injuries. Feel free to contact me at 770 479 0366 for a free, no obligation consultation or visit my website for more information at

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This is essentially the same question as asked here: I suggest you review the answers here as well.

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