You've been in a car accident, and it caused an old injury or condition to flare up. Can you still receive damages if the accident didn't cause new injuries, but instead made existing ones worse?
Yes, you can. Here’s how.
The fact that you have a previous injury or condition doesn't change the fact you were injured in an accident. But it does, unfortunately, complicate things. It starts with your insurance company. It’s not surprising that insurance companies like to rely on pre-existing conditions or injuries to reduce payment to an injured party seeking compensation from an accident.
Claim adjusters are trained to utilize your past against you - no matter how big or small a prior injury may be. Insurers will search through your medical history to reinforce their claims your health was already at risk. They are instructed to employ evidence to suggest the accident had minimal effects on your health.
The purpose of damages is to try to get you as close to "whole" (a legal term meaning in the same position you were in before the accident) as possible. This applies to people with pre-existing conditions, as well. In their case, 'making whole' doesn't necessarily mean entirely resolving the pre-existing condition. It just means that they're not more injured than they were prior to the accident.
Pre-existing means the injury needs to have occurred before the accident - it does not have to be chronic or long-term to qualify as pre-existing.
Some examples of those are previous injuries, including:
A pre-existing illness or conditions can also be exacerbated by an accident. Arthritis, anemia, and mental health illnesses such as PTSD can all get worse due to a car crash. If you have any illnesses or medical conditions, it's especially important that you receive a full medical exam as soon as possible, so your doctor can assess how you were impacted in the accident.
There's an important legal idea in regards to pre-existing conditions called the eggshell skull doctrine (I promise I didn't just make that up! ). The eggshell skull doctrine means that if someone causes you harm, they must be fully responsible even if you are more susceptible than a person without pre-existing conditions.
For someone who has a lengthy medical history, it’s imperative to have an experienced attorney on your side. Detailed medical records are a crucial asset in a personal injury claim like this. Each pre-existing condition is an opportunity for the insurance company to argue that you weren't actually injured in the accident, and that therefore they're not responsible for your medical bills. It’s a common practice for insurance companies to drag out court proceedings if efforts to settle with victims for less than they deserve.
As a victim, you have every right to pursue compensation and be made whole, regardless of how your condition was at the time of the accident. In many cases, an injury victim that has received ongoing medical care will have an easier time reproducing medical records than someone who hasn’t been to the doctor in 10 years.
It’s essential to contact an injury as soon as possible. Having a dedicated and experienced attorney is crucial to assisting you in obtaining all the damages you’re entitled to.
When discussing your case with a personal injury attorney, don’t hold any medical history or pertinent information back. Building a solid relationship with your lawyer relies on providing full and accurate information at all times. Failing to disclose a pre-existing injury can damage your credibility, jeopardize your claim, and ultimately reduce your odds of a settlement.
Let your attorney decide how to handle information that might complicate your claim. Otherwise, the entire case can be compromised by non-disclosure.
Looking for an attorney? Contact us today. In just three minutes, we can get a claim started and work towards making you whole again.