Will my pre-existing arthritis prevent me from recovering from an accident?

An aching back, knees that click, a neck that hurts to turn… these are common pains that many people experience on a daily basis.  They are often part of a condition called osteoarthritis, one of the most common types of arthritis.[1]   It occurs in the joints when the cartilage meant to cushion the areas between bones wears away.[2]

back pain

For example, the meniscus is the cartilage that cushions the area between the shin bone and the thigh bone.  When the meniscus breaks down, the two bones are no longer separated. In a severe case, a knee replacement may be the only option.[3]  According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 54 million Americas experience some form of arthritis.[4]  In a 2012 study reported by the National Institute of Health, 710 people aged 50 and older were given MRIs of their knees.[5]  The study found that nearly 90 percent had at least one trait indicating the presence of osteoarthritis.[6]

However, just because a person has osteoarthritis does not mean they are experiencing pain.[7]  Pain is a function of how the nervous system interprets the signals received from the nerves.[8]  Some people experience significant pain from osteoarthritis and some experience no pain at all. Indeed, some people with underlying osteoarthritis live without even knowing that they have the condition.[9]

The damage from an automobile crash or other traumatic event can completely alter the trajectory of a person with such a “pre-existing condition.”[10]  In Virginia, a person with a pre-existing condition, such as osteoarthritis, is still entitled to recover for their injury, but only for the amount that the accident “exacerbated” or made the condition worse.[11]  It is not always easy to determine just how much a new trauma has impacted a pre-existing condition, but many of our clients with underlying osteoarthritis report that they were pain-free until the accident. They can recover for whatever new pain the accident causes.

car crash

Determining the effect of an accident on someone with a preexisting condition often requires use of a medical doctor as an expert to explain how the new accident injured the joint, or created pain in a part of the body where there was none before. Thus, regardless of your age group, and regardless of your underlying physical condition, it always makes sense to consult a personal injury attorney when you have been hurt in an accident.

The attorneys at Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen have years of experience working with injured people, including those who have had a pre-existing condition prior to the new trauma.   Give us a call today, at 866-378-2724.



[1] Washington Post, “The best way to manage joint pain is also the least intuitive:  keep active.”   October 17, 2020.

[2] “Instead of knee replacement surgery, ‘cutting edge’ medicine regenerates cartilage for the joint.”  Washington Post, October 17, 2020.

[3] Id.

[4] Centers for Disease Control, “State-Specific Severe Joint Pain and Physical Activity Among Adults with Arthritis—United States, 2017”.  CDC.gov.

[5] National Institute of Health, “Prevalence of Abnormalities in knees detected by MRI in adults without knee osteoarthritis:  population based observational study.”  Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.

[6] Id.

[7]  Dr. Greg Lehman, as quoted in the Washington Post, “The best way to manage joint pain is also the least intuitive:  keep active.”   October 17, 2020.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Virginia Model Jury Instruction, No. 9.030.

[11] Id.