When you are injured in a car crash due to someone else’s negligence, the liable party is usually responsible for your medical expenses, lost earnings, and pain and suffering. However, not all personal injury cases are that simple.
Suppose you injure your back in a car crash where another driver rear-ends you. You might assume the other driver’s insurance company will pay for your injuries and damages. Seems pretty-straight forward.
But what if you had a pre-existing condition with your lower back, such as a bulging disc? The insurance company may balk at giving you the settlement you want, arguing that your pre-existing condition is responsible for your symptoms and pain.
Having a pre-existing condition does not mean you can not obtain compensation, but it complicates the case. When making a personal injury claim with a pre-existing condition, the Law Offices of Larry B. Litt can advocate for you and fight for the best possible outcome.
What Is a Pre-Existing Condition?
A pre-existing condition is a physical or mental condition or ailment that you had before an accident. A pre-existing condition in a personal injury claim affects the same body area or part that was inured in the auto crash. The liable party’s insurance company covers your damages in a personal injury lawsuit. This involves paying your medical bills, lost earnings, and property damages. For example, if you have had a back problem for years, you have a pre-existing condition as that issue was not caused by the auto crash.
Another example of a pre-existing condition is arthritis. If you have suffered from joint problems for a long time, you cannot state the car crash caused your arthritis. You can however, state that the car collision made your condition worse. High blood pressure and depression are pre-existing conditions that are often exacerbated by car accidents.
However, the negligent party is not responsible for paying for injuries they did not cause. If you have a pre-existing condition, the accident may have worsened. For instance, you might have degenerative disc disease aggravated by a head on collision.
If the crash did not cause the injury, the party who caused the auto accident is not liable for paying damages. But if the injury worsens your pre-existing condition, you can receive compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and any treatment related to the aggravation of your pre-existing condition.
Some of the most common pre-existing injuries that affect bodily injury claims are:
- Degenerative disc disease
- Spinal stenosis
- Heart conditions
- High blood pressure
When a person’s pre-existing condition has been permanently aggravated, the injured person suffers permanent damages or changes to the normal course of an ailment or condition. The permanent aggravation of that condition causes damage that will never be fully reversed or healed, and therefore never return to their health status before the injury. Often, a doctor will wait to make the determination that an aggravation is temporary or permanent, once the person has reached his or her “maximum medical improvement,” at which time his or her activities of daily living (ADL) will not progress further in year, with or without the help of medical treatment.
Where the lines begin to blur – and where defendants often aggressively assert arguments against the plaintiff for “no new injury” – is when the pre-existing condition is associated with the accident-caused injury.
If you were in an auto collision and have these or another pre-existing condition, immediately contact your doctor and personal injury car accident attorney. You can still recover damages in a claim when you have a pre-existing condition, but your attorney needs to prepare the case with that in mind.
How To Use Your Pre-Existing Conditions To Strengthen Your Case
Here is how to use your pre-existing conditions to strengthen your case and get the settlement you need to fully recoup your medical costs following a Maryland car wreck.
- Be open about any prior injuries – Many people try to hide the fact that they have pre-existing conditions. This is usually because they fear that if they expose any pre-existing conditions, they may lose their settlement entirely or lose a significant portion of it. However, it is important to be honest about any pre-existing conditions as this can have an impact on your case in a positive manner.
- Disclose current medical conditions – Current medical conditions are also an important factor to disclose. Again, many people hold these from insurance companies and their Baltimore car accident attorney to try to avoid being denied benefits. While you will not receive compensation for a medical condition you had prior to your car crash, the accident may have made this medical condition worse. If this is the case, the cost of this worsening is not your responsibility and must be addressed.
- Use past medical records to strengthen your case – To benefit your case when you have pre-existing conditions, you can use past medical records to show the worsening or impact the auto accident had on your condition. This will help you to receive compensation for the worsening of your current condition or prior injuries as a result of the car crash, without increasing your risk for having your claim denied.
How Does a Pre-Existing Condition Complicate a Car Crash Case?
After an auto collision, the negligent party’s insurance company is theoretically responsible for covering your injuries and other damages. However, the insurance company will do everything possible to minimize its liability. If the insurance adjuster discovers you had a pre-existing injury, they will seize on this information and attempt to use it against you.
However, your personal injury attorney will argue that the defendant’s negligence worsened your pre-existing injury. With proper legal arguments and evidence presented, you can still receive ample compensation for your losses when you have a pre-existing condition.
Contrary to popular belief, it is vital to disclose your pre-existing condition when pursuing a personal injury claim. If you fail to do so, you risk further complicating your case and may face a dismissal of your claim. By being honest and upfront about a pre-existing condition, you can show how said issue was aggravated by the car accident. Hiding a pre-existing condition never goes well. Eventually, the defendant’s insurance company will discover you tried to hide your condition, allowing them to reject your claim entirely. In addition, if you need to testify in court, it never looks good to a jury if the plaintiff has tried to conceal pertinent information.
The Eggshell Plaintiff Theory
A pre-existing condition can make you more likely to be injured in an auto wreck, but it does not mean you should receive less for your injuries. The “eggshell plaintiff” theory means that the insurance company or court must consider a personal injury victim as they are, meaning they cannot be denied compensation simply because their pre-existing injury made it so they were more likely to get hurt in an auto accident.
In Maryland, courts and juries must consider you in the state you were in when the auto crash happened. The negligent party is liable for whatever damages they caused, regardless of your medical condition and injuries before the accident.
Medical Records Are Critical
The quality of medical records is crucial in a personal injury claim with pre-existing injuries. Your medical records offer critical details about your health before the auto crash. They also support how the injury was made worse after the car collision. For example, in your personal injury case, your attorney may rely on the following medical evidence to prove the car wreck caused your pre-existing injury worse:
- Diagnostic tests
- Doctor’s reports
- Expert testimony
It is critical that your medical records are highly detailed and thoroughly discuss your medical condition. In addition, any medical information provided before the auto accident should detail how severe the injury was and how it affected your life.
Furthermore, your medical records after the accident should offer details about how the accident worsened the pre-existing injury and symptoms after the incident.
A Pre-Existing Condition Is Not Necessarily a Negative
A bodily injury case with a pre-existing condition can add complications, but it is not necessarily a negative. In fact, a pre-existing condition can make it easier to obtain compensation because a clear illustration of your condition before the auto collision shows the harm that the accident caused from the impact of the accident.
Why Should I Contact a Personal Injury Attorney?
A claim that involves a pre-existing condition can become complicated very quickly. Therefore, it is a good idea to consult a highly skilled personal injury attorney who can help you collect relevant past and current medical documentation that proves how the car accident worsened your pre-existing condition. Legal representation can reduce your risk of a claim denial or low settlement offer, ensuring your rights remain protected, despite your pre-existing condition.
If you or a loved one was hurt in an auto crash accident and have a pre-existing condition, you can still file a personal injury claim and receive compensation. However, having a skilled attorney at your side is even more critical in a case with a pre-existing condition. Call the Law Offices of Larry B. Litt today at 443-844-1528 to discuss your personal injury case and pre-existing condition. We are available day or night 24/7/365. Our legal team will protect your rights, and make sure you do not get taken advantage of by an insurance company.