Pre-existing Conditions: How They May Affect Car Accident Claims
The biggest portion of a monetary settlement after a car accident is typically payment for the accident victim’s medical expenses. This is money to pay bills for treatment needed because of injuries suffered in the accident. However, if the accident victim had health problems before the accident, this gives the insurer an opportunity to argue that some medical care was due to pre-existing conditions and therefore should not be part of the settlement.
A pre-existing medical condition, such as a bad back or even arthritis, can cost you money in a car accident settlement if don’t have an experienced Buffalo personal injury lawyer standing up to the insurance company. You’ll need a car accident attorney who can explain that the medical care you received and pain you suffered were because of the accident or that the accident exacerbated a pre-existing condition.
What is a Pre-Existing Condition?
You may be familiar with the term “pre-existing condition” in terms of health insurance coverage. A “pre-existing condition” is a health problem you had before the date that new health coverage starts. Under current law, health insurance companies can’t refuse to cover you or charge you more just because you have a pre-existing medical condition.
In a personal injury claim, you seek compensation for injuries suffered in an accident someone else has caused. Among your objectives is reimbursement for the medical care required to treat your injuries caused by the accident and for your pain and suffering.
Any injury or health condition you had before the accident would be considered a pre-existing condition and any costs or losses due to it would not be part of the claim, as long as the accident did not make the pre-existing condition worse.
Some typical injuries one might suffer in a car accident include:
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Broken bones (fractures)
- Whiplash (a neck injury)
- Spinal cord injuries (including paralysis)
- Soft tissue and muscle tears, such as a strained lower back.
Besides car accidents, these types of injuries can occur in a variety of accidents, such as falls, sports accidents or workplace accidents. Lower back pain is also a cumulative injury caused by a lifetime of hard work or simply due to old age.
In a car accident claim, the accident victim must demonstrate that the car accident was the cause of their injury. This is typically done with medical records and doctors’ statements as to what the doctor found in examining and treating the crash victim.
An insurance company can also obtain your medical records after you file a claim and may cite evidence that certain conditions you were treated for after your car accident existed before the accident. For example, if there’s any mention of back or neck pain prior to the accident, the insurer could argue the herniated disc treated after the accident was a pre-existing condition. They might refuse to pay for this care.
Pre-Existing Conditions and the Eggshell Plaintiff
In some cases, the impact of a car crash can make worse a pre-existing condition. A person with a bad back who experiences the sudden jolt of a rear-end car accident may come away with their back in worse condition, for example. In such cases, the eggshell plaintiff doctrine holds that such a plaintiff is eligible for full compensation even though their pre-existing physical condition made their injuries worse than they would otherwise have been.
In addition to any new injuries they caused, the defendant is responsible for exacerbating or worsening any health conditions the victim was suffering from prior to the accident. This could even apply to mental conditions, such as a crash victim who had previously suffered a traumatic incident, such as a house fire, and whose psychological problems from it were exacerbated by a violent car crash.
In court, if the jury finds that the plaintiff had a preexisting condition and that the condition was aggravated by an injury the defendant caused, the jury should award the plaintiff full compensation for those symptoms, even though the symptoms are worse than they would be if the plaintiff did not have this preexisting condition.
How a Car Accident Lawyer Fights a Pre-Existing Injury Defense
Insurance companies fight expensive car accident claims. Claiming that a plaintiff’s injury existed before the accident is a frequent defense. As your car accident attorneys, Cantor, Wolff, Nicastro & Hall would be prepared to challenge such arguments by having your medical records, your doctors’ statements and statements of independent medical consultants at the ready to explain your condition before and after your accident.
If the case centered on a back injury, your medical records might show some complaints of back pain prior to the car accident. To demonstrate that your back injury was the result of or exacerbated by the accident, we would seek to show an escalation in the treatment you received. For example, there could be imaging from before and after the accident – ultrasounds, CT scans, or other tests – that show a difference in damage to your back.
We could also talk to you and your family and colleagues to get an idea of how the accident has changed your life. Perhaps your back injury causes you to be less active socially or you’re no longer the guy everyone calls on for help with more physical tasks.
We’ll work to present a full picture of what has happened to you and what it has cost you. We’ll press your claim for full compensation for your injuries from the car accident.
The experienced Buffalo car accident lawyers at Cantor, Wolff, Nicastro & Hall LLC are committed to helping accident victims demand the full compensation they deserve for preventable injuries caused by others’ negligence or disregard for safety. We have more than 100 years of combined legal experience and a track record of success at trial.