Yes. Prior injuries can act as a double-edged sword when making a claim. While most people (including personal injury attorneys) presume that a prior injury will interfere with or devalue a claim, this is not accurate for all claims and all cases. Arizona law actually contemplates prior injuries. In order to understand a prior injury’s impact on the value of a case, it is important to first understand what an injured claimant may claim as damages under Arizona law.
Under Arizona law, tort victims may claim the full cost of their medical expenses, now and in the future, pain, discomfort, suffering, disability, disfigurement, and anxiety already experienced and reasonably probable to be experienced in the future. Tort victims are also entitled to claim loss of earnings to date, any decrease in earning power or capacity in the future as well as the loss of enjoyment of life (the participation in life’s activities to the quality and extent normally enjoyed before the injury).
A prior injury is by definition not related to the accident upon which your lawsuit is based. That does NOT by itself detract from those injuries that are related to the accident and that does not mean the prior injury is not relevant. It is. Arizona law has addressed prior injuries in two ways: (1) aggravation of the prior injury may be claimed, and (2) a prior injury may cause the claimant to be more susceptible to injuries the claimant incurred in the present accident. Thus, if a physician can determine that the prior injury was aggravated or made worse by the accident- the aggravation is compensable. In addition, some injuries or conditions make the client unusually susceptible to injury. For example, a normally healthy person may incur a minor concussion in an accident. A person with a history of head injuries or concussions is more susceptible to an accident-related injury than a normal healthy person. Thus, a normally healthy person may have had a brief visit to an emergency room with little to no residual injury from an accident. In contrast, a previously injured person that is more susceptible to injury may incur a weeklong stay and length residual problems as a result of an accident due to their condition. As such, the prior injury will impact the value of the claim.