How Does a Pre-Existing Injury Affect My Car Accident Claim?
Everyone has a medical history that includes previous injuries, medical conditions, and sometimes congenital issues that impact their health and lives. Certain pre-existing injuries and conditions can cause you to be more susceptible to suffering serious harm if you are involved in a car accident. Unfortunately, you may be pressured by insurance companies into believing you cannot bring a claim if you have a pre-existing condition that was aggravated by your crash. The insurer may offer you a lowball settlement amount or deny your claim entirely based on your medical history.
Understanding your legal rights to compensation for all your injuries caused by the accident, including aggravation of your pre-existing conditions, is vital. Contrary to popular belief, these conditions do not prevent you from seeking damages for your losses and do not necessarily result in a lower-value claim. However, the presence of a pre-existing injury can complicate the legal process of recovering compensation. An experienced attorney for car accident cases in Tacoma can evaluate your case and help you get the damages you deserve.
What is a Pre-Existing Condition?
In terms of personal injury claims, a pre-existing condition is simply an illness, injury, or other health issue you had prior to the accident in question. “Aggravation” is the term used for the increase in the condition’s underlying symptoms, such as pain or swelling, that directly result from the accident.
Any condition can be pre-existing, but certain issues are more likely to be aggravated by a crash than others, including:
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
- Neck or spine injuries
- Soft tissue injuries
- Brittle bones
Am I Able to Seek Compensation for the Aggravation of a Pre-Existing Injury?
Your car crash cannot be blamed for causing your pre-existing injuries because they already had occurred at the time of the accident. However, the auto accident may have led to a worsening of the symptoms of your pre-existing condition. So while you cannot seek compensation for the initial injury itself, you can recover damages related to the aggravation of the injury.
For example, imagine you suffered a neck injury at work several years before the crash. It had healed and no longer caused you pain. However, the prior damage to your neck made it less resilient, and when a reckless driver rear-ended you, the impact caused a severe and painful case of whiplash. The insurance company will likely try to argue that your pre-existing injury is the cause of your pain. However, your doctor can testify to the change in your condition following the crash, and other evidence can be collected to support your claim.
The importance of getting a prompt medical evaluation following the accident and following up with any care recommendations cannot be overstated in cases where a pre-existing injury is involved. Your medical records provide vital proof of your car accident injuries and the medical care necessary to treat them, including surgeries, pain medications, physical therapy, and more.
What is the Eggshell Skull Rule and What Impact Does It Have on My Claim?
When discussing pre-existing injuries and car accidents, you may hear about the “Eggshell Skull Rule.” This common law doctrine states that victims should be able to recover compensation from the negligent party, regardless of whether their injuries were unexpected or unforeseeable. Essentially, the Eggshell Skull Rule allows victims of accidents to seek damages for all injuries caused by the negligent person’s actions, even if those injuries likely wouldn’t have occurred if the individual did not have a pre-existing condition.
The hypothetical situation the Eggshell Skull Rule is named after involves a victim with a condition that makes their bones thin and brittle. If this person is involved in a car accident and suffers a serious head injury due to the force of the crash on their thin skull, the negligent party will still be liable for their actual damages, even though their unique condition exacerbated the severity of the injury. Although an average person may not have experienced a head injury from the crash, that should not prevent the thin-skulled person from recovering full compensation from the at-fault party since the accident and injury would not have occurred without the other person’s negligence.
How Should I Handle Interviews With an Insurance Adjuster if I Have a Pre-Existing Condition?
Speaking with a trusted car accident attorney before discussing your claim with an insurance adjuster is always recommended, but this is particularly crucial in cases involving pre-existing injuries. Your lawyer can advise you on what to say and how to handle requests from the insurer for medical examinations and records. Never agree to a settlement amount without speaking to an attorney first. Adjusters are employed to limit the insurer’s losses, and the amount they offer could be much less than you are entitled to.
When receiving treatment post-accident, it’s essential to be candid with your doctor about your pre-existing conditions. Trying to hide a condition not only results in worse medical outcomes but can also negatively impact your claim. While insurers do tend to fight harder against claims involving the aggravation of pre-existing injuries, a skilled personal injury attorney can help you get the compensation you deserve.
How Can a Tacoma Car Accident Lawyer Assist Me?
No matter your medical history, a negligent driver should be held responsible for the damages their harmful actions have caused. South Sound Law Group can provide the strong legal representation you need if you’ve suffered the aggravation of a pre-existing injury following a Washington state car accident. Contact our law firm today at 253-383-3328 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your legal options for financial recovery.