How Pre-Existing Injuries Impact Car Accident Claims | Kisling, Nestico & Redick
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Car accident claims are meant to compensate victims, but what happens if you have a history of medical problems?
Written by
KNR Legal
Date posted
October 13, 2023

Accidents can happen to anyone, and the road to recovery can be physically and financially challenging. Car accident claims are meant to compensate victims so they can get proper medical treatment and make up for lost wages. However, when the injured party has a history of medical conditions or pre-existing injuries, it can make things even more complicated.

Though no one can control the actions of a negligent driver, a pre-existing injury can muddy the waters of your insurance claim and cast doubt on the severity of what you’re going through. Here’s a deep dive into navigating car accident claims involving pre-existing medical conditions and what that means for your expected compensation.

Pre-Existing Injuries That Complicate Accident Claims

Any motor vehicle accident can aggravate a pre-existing injury, from rear-end crashes to T-bone collisions. Some of the most common preexisting injuries that complicate car accident cases include:

  • Herniated Discs or Back Injuries: Such conditions are often the focal point of dispute. Insurance companies might contend that the most recent car accident did not cause or worsen the issue, making it a challenging point of contention.
  • Previous Fractures or Broken Bones: If bones were previously fractured, it could be argued they were already in a fragile state, and the accident wasn’t entirely to blame for any new injuries.
  • Chronic Pain Conditions: Conditions like fibromyalgia, which involve regular pain episodes, can be tricky. Insurers might claim the pain was independent of the accident.
  • Neurological Conditions: For those with a history of migraines or concussions, establishing the link between the accident and worsening symptoms can be an uphill battle.
  • Arthritis or Degenerative Disc Disease: Insurance companies often cite aging-related conditions as the primary cause of discomfort or limited mobility rather than the accident itself.

Insurance Tactics to Diminish Pre-Existing Injuries

Insurance companies are profit-driven. As a result, they often view a pre-existing injury as an opportunity to reduce their financial obligation to you, even if they are liable. This can sometimes lead to various tactics designed to minimize the harm caused by the accident and possible payouts.

If you or a loved one were in a car crash that aggravated a prior injury, an insurance company might:

Scrutinize Your Medical Records

Insurers often scour through a victim’s medical history, looking for any evidence of pre-existing conditions that might diminish the claim’s value.

For instance, you file a claim for neck pain following a car accident. The other driver’s insurance company may discover a doctor’s visit for neck strain from a gym injury two years prior. They could use this information to argue that your discomfort is more related to this older injury rather than the recent collision.

Make Lack of Causation Arguments

One of the most common tactics is to argue that the accident did not cause the injury or worsen an existing one.

Imagine you’re seeking compensation for a back injury after a rear-end collision. An insurance adjuster may point to your participation in a marathon a month before the accident. They might suggest that your back pain is more likely due to rigorous training rather than the crash’s impact.

Offer a Reduced Settlement

Relying on your potential lack of knowledge about the value of your claim and what you’ll need to recuperate properly, insurers might make a lowball offer.

After racking up over $30,000 in medical bills to treat a herniated disc after a car wreck, insurance may only offer you $15,000 and point to a previous fall as justification for their offer. Without consulting a legal professional, you may believe this is all your injury is worth.

Dispute Certain Medical Treatments

Some companies may dispute the necessity of specific treatments, asserting they relate more to the pre-existing condition than the accident.

You may need physical therapy for a knee injury after a car accident. However, when they receive the bill for this treatment as part of your claim, an insurance company might contest it, pointing out that you had similar therapy for a knee injury years before. This could imply the treatment might be (at least partly) for the older injury.

Cast Doubt the Extent of Injuries

Insurers may attempt to downplay the severity of injuries to lessen the amount they’d have to pay out.

Let’s say you suffered a significant arm fracture in a car crash, which resulted in serious pain and inconvenience. The insurance company may acknowledge your broken arm but suggest that the pain you endured is tied to a past fracture as a way to offer less.

Demonstrating Your Pain & Documenting Pre-Existing Injuries

To counter insurance company tactics and ensure fair compensation when preexisting injuries are part of a car accident claim, victims need to arm themselves with evidence:

  • Complete Medical Records: Regularly visiting healthcare professionals and maintaining records can clearly explain how an injury has evolved post-accident.
  • Expert Testimony: Medical professionals can be invaluable in differentiating between injuries caused by the accident and those pre-existing injuries.
  • Diagnostic Tools: Modern diagnostics, including MRIs and X-rays, can visually demonstrate the extent and evolution of injuries.
  • Comparative Analysis: Presenting health records before and after the accident can illustrate a clear change, reinforcing the claim.

Things Victims Should Know about Pre-Existing Injuries

Navigating an auto insurance claim where pre-existing conditions are an issue requires vigilance. Victims must understand their duty to mitigate and follow prescribed medical advice to ensure they don’t worsen their conditions through neglect.

You should also be familiar with the “Eggshell Plaintiff” rule, which states that defendants are liable for injuries caused, even if the victim was more susceptible due to a pre-existing condition. Above all, honesty is essential. Being transparent about one’s medical history ensures that claims are built on a solid foundation.

An Experienced Lawyer Can Help with Preexisting Injuries

Having pre-existing injuries complicates car accident claims, but victims have options. This is where an experienced personal injury lawyer can make a significant difference.

When a victim has prior injuries, insurance companies often see an opportunity. They might attempt to argue that the current injuries were not a result of the accident but rather a continuation or exacerbation of the pre-existing conditions. Such tactics count on victims foregoing legal representation and make it difficult to get fair compensation. However, an effective attorney understands these maneuvers and knows how to respond.

Lawyers Understand Medical Evidence

One of the primary assets a personal injury lawyer brings is their deep understanding of medical evidence and its role in these cases. They can collaborate with medical professionals, ensuring that the evidence differentiates between the impact of the accident and the status of pre-existing conditions. This distinction is crucial in debunking claims by insurance adjusters that the accident wasn’t the primary cause of the injury.

Attorneys are Aggressive Negotiators

Experienced attorneys also excel in strategic negotiations. Insurance companies might approach victims with lowball offers, banking on their potential lack of understanding of their claim’s worth. However, with a knowledgeable lawyer, victims can be assured that someone is fighting for their best interests, ensuring they get the compensation they deserve.

A Lawyer Can Take Your Case to Court (When Necessary)

A personal injury lawyer’s role becomes even more vital when a fair settlement cannot be reached outside of court. They can represent you in a personal injury lawsuit and present a compelling case about the true impact of the accident on your health, separate from any pre-existing conditions.

Contact the Car Accident Lawyers at KNR

Car accident claims are daunting enough, and when pre-existing injuries enter the picture, they become even more so. However, with a trusted attorney, you can better present your case for full and fair compensation, paving the way for a brighter, healthier future.

As one of Ohio’s largest and most successful personal injury law firms, Kisling, Nestico & Redick has been helping people through the insurance claim process and securing maximum compensation for over 15 years. Call  1-800-HURT-NOW for a free, no-risk consultation.