Car accidents are unfortunate events that can happen to anyone. And not everyone involved in an accident is a healthy person with an unscathed medical history. In fact, many victims of vehicle collisions are people with pre-existing conditions or injuries. Car accidents can make pre-existing injuries worse, impacting your personal injury claim after being involved in an accident. For the most part, insurance adjusters have a job to settle claims for the lowest amount of money possible. If they find out that you had a pre-existing injury or condition before the accident, they may try to argue that you only suffered injuries due to your previous history. What they want is for you to accept their minimum offer and walk away so they can close your claim.
Will a Pre-Existing Injury Affect My Personal Injury Claim?
According to the World Health Organization WHO, an estimated 20-50 million individuals sustain non-fatal injuries from car accidents every year. Here are a few facts on how pre-existing injuries or conditions can affect personal injury claim:
- Insurance companies usually use pre-existing conditions to reduce their payout amount to injured parties seeking compensation from car accidents.
- Pre-existing injuries or conditions can interfere with a personal injury claim but will not always prohibit it.
- If you’ve been injured by someone else’s negligence or wrongful actions, you can still file a claim for compensation.
- You could potentially claim that the accident has exacerbated your underlying condition or injury.
The best thing to do is talk to a personal injury attorney to find out what your rights are and get the best legal counsel for your case. You can also continue reading about how a personal injury attorney can help you get fair compensation after an accident that has worsened a pre-existing injury.
How Can a Car Accident Impact a Pre-existing Condition?
Suppose you were involved in a car accident and sustained a lumbar sprain or lower back injury. Then after the accident, an X-Ray or MRI reveals you had a degenerative condition that existed before the accident. It’s quite possible you were completely unaware of this condition because you did not have any apparent signs or symptoms. It could even be the case that you never experienced any discomfort from your condition.
Degenerative changes to your spine can make it more fragile and less resilient to traumatic injuries, like the impact of a car collision. Such a pre-existing condition like a degenerative spine condition could cause you to suffer a more severe injury from a collision. Or your injuries could last longer and be harder to recover from.
There is a varying degree of impact that an accident can have on a pre-existing condition. It can be a nuisance that interferes with your ability to carry out daily life or simply an annoyance that inhibits only limited activities.
Am I Required to Disclose a Pre-existing Condition to My Attorney?
It is critical to discuss any conditions or injuries you had prior to the accident. You want to maintain credibility in your case, and failing to disclose a pre-existing condition can weaken this. If you try to hide a pre-existing condition or injury, you may be hurting your case. You might even be reducing your odds of getting fair compensation. If a new injury affects the same body part or area as an old condition, your entire claim might become compromised due to non-disclosure.
Insurance companies train claim adjusters to use previous injuries as an excuse to pay you the minimum settlement amount possible. They may even try to use your pre-existing injury history to disqualify your accident claim altogether. A qualified personal injury attorney will be able to thoroughly assess your medical history and offer professional legal counsel.
Your personal injury attorney can help you understand how the recent car accident may or may not be affected by your pre-existing condition or injury. In addition, if the other party’s attorney or insurance company finds out that you failed to disclose a prior injury, they may question your integrity during legal proceedings. For such reasons, it is essential to disclose all previous conditions or injuries to your attorney up front.
Does It Matter How Bad My Pre-existing Condition Is?
No matter how severe or lengthy your medical history is, you should be forthcoming and transparent about all the facts. Again, if you fail to do so, the other party’s adjuster or attorney may find out and try to suggest that you have fabricated your claim. They may even go as far as arguing that you have exaggerated your injuries. In legal terms, this would pose an issue to your credibility as well as a “causation issue.” The bottom line is that no matter how extensive or small your pre-existing conditions may be, it’s important you disclose the honest facts of your history to your attorney.
A pre-existing condition or injury can be aggravated by a subsequent car accident. The person at fault for the car accident is not responsible for the victim’s original condition or injuries. But if the victim’s condition or injuries worsen due to the accident, the at-fault person should be held responsible for worsening the condition. This would require a clear distinction to be made between the pre-existing condition and the current claimed injury.
With the assistance of medical professional input, an experienced personal injury attorney will determine if there is any aggravation of pre-existing conditions. Establishing the extent of the disturbance and how it will impact your recovery is an essential component of your personal injury lawsuit that will need to be done by a team of experts.
The Eggshell Skull Rule
The eggshell skull rule, also known as the eggshell plaintiff legal theory, essentially protects victims with pre-existing vulnerabilities. The eggshell skull rule is a law that requires defendants to “take plaintiffs as they are.” This means that the negligent or responsible party for the accident is responsible for compensating damages to the victim, regardless of any pre-existing conditions. It does not matter whether or not the victim’s pre-existing conditions worsened the outcome; the negligent party is still responsible for paying damages that arise from their wrongful actions.
The eggshell skull rule further concedes the necessity to provide all details of your previous medical condition(s) to your medical care providers as well as your legal counsel team. Doing so will better serve your wishes to obtain accurate compensation and proper medical treatment.
Will My Pre-existing Condition Affect My Financial Compensation?
Your pre-existing condition could affect your ability to receive sufficient compensation to pay for all of your medical expenses. This could happen in a scenario where the at-fault person argues that you are taking advantage of the accident to get them to cover the medical costs of your pre-existing condition. This could then be used as an excuse to give you a lower settlement. To avoid settling for an unfair amount, you will need credible, experienced legal advocacy. The right attorney will be able to guide you through the claim process and help you recover all of the compensation you deserve.
If you or a loved one has sustained injuries in an accident after having a pre-existing medical condition, you’ll want to contact an experienced car accident attorney to help you navigate your case. With the proper legal advice and professional legal representation, our competent and experienced team of attorneys will ensure you get the best possible outcome.