Does a Pre-Existing Condition Affect My Car Accident Insurance Claim?
Pre-existing conditions present a challenge when you’ve been in a car accident. Sometimes the pre-existing condition is unaffected, but more of the time the condition is either aggravated or worsened.
Insurance company’s standard response when you have a preexisting condition is that your injuries were not caused by the crash. The insurance company might deny your claim completely or significantly discount how much it is willing to pay for your claim. While they know the cause of an injury is not clear cut, and aggravation of a preexisting condition can be painful or disabling, they try to take advantage of this to save money.
Pre-existing conditions come in various forms. They might be a prior injury, from another accident, or some disease or disorder of the body. In either case, regardless of how well you were doing immediately before the car accident, the insurance company will claim that your current injury is just a manifestation of the old injury or condition. We often see this when people have arthritis, degenerative disk disease (DDD), or musculoskeletal pains.
Your doctors, or hired experts, will determine the extent a car accident aggravated your pre-existing condition, or if the accident created a new injury. They review all past medical records and physical examinations.
Interestingly, you might not have known you had a pre-existing condition until it was discovered after the car accident. This is not uncommon with DDD. DDD is a disease that develops slowly over time; the accident did not cause it. What changes is that it now becomes symptomatic. The person who caused the car accident should be responsible for your pain and new symptoms. They should be responsible for any aggravation of a pre-existing condition.
Pre-existing Conditions Sometimes Worsened by Accidents
If you have a previous injury, a car, tuck or motorcycle accident may worsen that injury and increase risks to your health. The following are a few examples of the many ways an accident can make pre-existing injuries worse.
- Brain injuries – A traumatic brain injury (TBI) can be exacerbated or reinjured in a vehicle accident. Each additional brain injury may worsen the previous one or create a new overall brain condition needing separate or revised medical diagnosis and treatment. For example, a person still healing from a simple concussion can be elevated into a new category of brain dysfunction or disease from an accident, such as more intensified headaches, memory loss, dizzy spells and motor function impairment.
- Neck injuries – Whiplash and other injuries to the upper vertebrae like a slipped disk could result from a car accident. Previous such injuries can become worsened by a lesser accident if the previous accident was the original cause.
- Broken bones – Sometimes, previously healthy bones may be fractured, but sometimes previously broken bones still healing may suffer complications such as dramatically retraumatized fracture line resulting in a refracture of the bone. Sometimes the new fracture and the refracture may be close to each other.
- Back problems – Those who endure frequent back pain from chronic conditions such as degenerative disk disease or arthritis can sometimes see their pre-existing conditions traumatized and worsened by an automobile crash. Such a new injury may create a more debilitating level of pain for the victim that had previously been manageable, but now is not as a result of the new resulting state of back health.
Situations of aggravated pre-existing conditions such as the above could easily warrant that the legally cited driver compensate the victim via their car insurance under state law. If you suspect that your own accident injuries may be worsening one or more pre-existing conditions, Gage Mathers can help you determine whether additional injury-based compensation is legally viable in your case.
How Do I Prove The Car Accident Caused My Pre-Existing Condition to Get Worse?
Many types of pre-existing conditions don’t allow an easy way of showing how it was before versus after a crash. This is especially true when you have multiple car crashes in a short period of time. Most of the time, the only differentiator is your report of symptoms, which is difficult to verify or compare to prior symptom reports. Some injuries, like a slipped disks or bone fractures, can be seen on imaging studies and compared to prior imaging studies; however, not many people have prior imaging to compare. In those cases, we rely on your symptom reporting, your doctors’ documentation of your care and treatment before and after the crash, and anything else that objectively shows a change in your condition.
Your credibility and the credibility of your treating doctors is important. This means you must be honest when asked about pre-existing conditions, any prior complaints or problems, and their severity. You should not exaggerate or downplay symptoms. Whether talking to your doctor, your lawyer, family, friends, co-workers, insurance adjusters, defense-paid experts, or insurance defense lawyers, honesty is the best policy. Ultimately, a jury will determine based on all the evidence if your pre-existing condition was aggravated or worsened; if so, to what degree; and how much you should be compensated. Credibility and likability go a long way.
For help with filing a personal injury claim, contact Gage Mathers today.
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