The Impact of Pre-Existing Medical Conditions on Car Accident Claims
Car accidents are an unfortunate reality for many people. Major collisions can result in injuries that have a significant impact on one’s physical, emotional, and financial well-being. In such cases, seeking compensation through a car accident claim is often necessary to cover medical expenses and loss of income. However, if you have a pre-existing medical condition, it can potentially complicate your car accident claim.
A pre-existing medical condition is any health issue that existed before you were injured in a car accident. It could be anything from chronic neck or back pain, arthritis, or any type of previous injury that affects the same body part injured in the crash. These conditions are not uncommon, as many people live with some form of lingering health issue.
Pre-existing conditions and Car Accident Claims
One of the most common misconceptions about pre-existing medical conditions and car accident claims is that they disqualify claimants from receiving compensation. This is absolutely not true. While having a pre-existing condition can complicate matters, it does not disqualify you from seeking compensation for serious injuries sustained in a car accident that wasn’t your fault.
In fact, pre-existing conditions are often taken into account when evaluating a car accident claim. Insurance companies and courts will consider the severity of your pre-existing condition before the accident, as well as how it was impacted by the car accident. If your pre-existing condition was worsened or exacerbated due to the accident, you are still eligible for compensation.
The Duty to Disclose
Sometimes insurance companies don’t ask for this information. If they don’t ask, there is no affirmative duty to disclose. But if they do ask, you are obligated to provide accurate information. If you give false information or you make an affirmative misrepresentation about an existing condition and the insurance company later discovers it, they may deny your claim on the grounds of fraud or misrepresentation. This could also lead to legal consequences.
Similarly, it is essential to provide accurate information about pre-existing conditions to medical professionals treating you for injuries sustained in a car accident. Not disclosing a pre-existing condition to a health provider can not only impact the quality of the treatment receive, it can also create credibility issues for you if your case ends up going to court later.
Aggravation of Pre-Existing Conditions
If your car accident aggravates or worsens your pre-existing condition, you can still seek compensation for the worsening impact it has had on your health. This is known as “aggravation of pre-existing conditions.”
For example, if you had a previous back injury and developed new symptoms or it made your pain (or other symptoms) worse in your back as a result of the accident, you are entitled to some measure of damages for the extent your pain or other symptoms worsened. In such cases, it is imperative that you have medical documentation that shows as clearly as possible how your pre-existing condition has been aggravated by the car accident. This can include doctors notes, radiological reports, test results, any other relevant medical records, and any calendars or other notes you may have kept.
Causation and Proof
Proving that a car accident directly caused harm to a pre-existing medical condition can be challenging. Insurance companies may try to argue that the injury was not caused by the accident but rather by your pre-existing condition. This is where having strong medical evidence and expert opinions becomes crucial.
Medical experts can review your medical records, perform examinations, and provide expert testimony to show how the accident has impacted your health. It is also important to note that causation does not have to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in car accident claims. Instead, it must be shown by a preponderance of the evidence, or to a reasonable degree of medical certainty.
Insurance Company Strategies
Insurance companies may use various strategies to try and minimize claims related to pre-existing conditions. For example, they may claim that your injuries were not caused by the accident but rather by your pre-existing condition to justify offering a low settlement amount. Therefore, it’s very important that you work with an experienced car accident lawyer who can advocate for your rights and negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf for a fair settlement.
Legal Recourse for Claimants
If you have a pre-existing condition and are involved in a car accident, you still have legal avenues to pursue compensation for your injuries. This can include:
- Pursuing a third-party claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
- Filing a lawsuit against the at-fault driver to seek compensation for damages if negotiating the third-party claim is not successful.
- Pursuing a medical payments claim and/or an underinsurance claim through your own insurance company.
Mitigating The Impact
While pre-existing conditions can complicate car accident claims, there are steps that claimants can take to mitigate this:
- Document your medical history and any pre-existing conditions you had before the accident.
- Follow all prescribed treatment plans and attend doctor’s appointments regularly. Articulate clearly during your medical appointments precisely how your symptoms have been worsened. Be ready to talk in terms of degree of pain, frequency, duration, location, nature (i.e., burning, aching, sharp, dull, etc.).
- Keeping track of any new symptoms or changes in your health post-accident on a calendar or in a pain diary. Again, be as precise as possible.
One scenario that exemplifies the impact of pre-existing conditions in car accident claims is the story of a woman who got into a multi-car accident. After initially refusing treatment at the scene of the accident, she went to the hospital a few days later complaining of severe pain. It was discovered that she had Chiari I Malformation, which was previously undiagnosed.
The defense argued that the pain she suffered was from a congenital condition; however, her team was able to prove through medical evidence that her pre-existing condition, a condition that she had been born with, became symptomatic as a result of the accident. The court found in her favor, awarding her compensation for her injuries.
Seek Legal Advice About Your Car Accident Claim Today
When filing a car accident claim, it is extremely important to disclose any pre-existing medical conditions to your insurance company and medical professionals. Failure to do so can result in the denial of your claim and potential legal consequences. If a pre-existing condition is aggravated by a car accident, you may still be eligible for compensation, but proving causation can be challenging. If you’ve been seriously injured in a car accident that wasn’t your fault and you have pre-existing conditions that have been aggravated by your accident, you still have the right to pursue fair compensation. We help victims of car accidents get the settlement they need to recover. Contact Arthur Law Firm (419) 782-9881 right away for a free consultation to discuss your case.