The Issue with Pre-Existing Health Conditions
If you have a pre-existing or degenerative health condition, you may be at increased risk of aggravating it in a car crash.
Insurance companies frequently try to deny paying claims to accident victims who have existing health conditions. Often, they argue that an accident had nothing to do with a victim’s health problem, which was there all along.
Fortunately, the law is on the side of victims whose conditions are aggravated by vehicle crashes. By working with an experienced personal injury attorney, you take an important step in protecting your rights and recovering the compensation to which you’re entitled.
The ‘Eggshell Plaintiff’
According to the law, the fact that an accident victim has pre-existing conditions does not remove blame from an individual who is responsible for an accident, as insurance companies often argue. Instead, the “eggshell plaintiff” concept holds that some victims are vulnerable to worsened injuries in an accident because of their pre-existing conditions.
Accident victims do not choose to be in an accident, regardless of whether they have pre-existing conditions. If you have a pre-existing condition that is aggravated because of an accident, you have the right to recover reimbursement for your medical expenses and other financial harm.
Degenerative Disk Disease
Many people have pre-existing degenerative disk disease that may never cause symptoms or be detected — or it may cause symptoms only after aggravation by the impact of a vehicle crash. Also known as degenerative disk disorder, the condition involves the deterioration of at least one intervertebral disk in the spinal column.
The disease develops over many years and even decades as the stresses of daily life — including many minor injuries — begin to accumulate.
Degenerative disk disease occurs in a significant portion of the population as a normal part of aging, and in most cases it causes no noticeable symptoms. In some people, however, degenerative disk disease causes debilitating pain that interferes with living a normal, active life.
If you begin experiencing pain after an accident — whether right away or over time — you may have sustained an injury that aggravated existing degenerative disk disease. The most frequent early symptom is pain in your back that spreads to the thighs and buttocks area — a condition known as sciatica. Additional symptoms include numbness and tingling in the legs or feet, and the pain often is worse when sitting.
Insurance Companies’ Efforts to Deny Claims
Degenerative disk disease can make an individual more vulnerable to herniating a disk in the event of a trauma, such as a fall or a car crash.
If you’ve begun experiencing pain due to degenerative disk disease or disk herniation following an accident, the insurance company of the person responsible for the crash may try to deny your claim. Attorneys for the insurer will argue that they are not liable for the expenses related to the injury because you already had the injury prior to the crash.
However, in determining who is responsible, the court will consider your level of pain. If your pain appeared or increased following the crash, the law allows you to recover damages, including the costs of medical treatment including any necessary surgery to repair the problem.
Disclosing Prior Injuries
Degenerative disk disease is just one type of pre-existing condition that can predispose you to pain or other symptoms after a vehicle crash.
As you work with your personal injury attorney, it’s important to disclose any prior injuries, even if you feel that they are not relevant or were very minor. By understanding your overall health picture, your attorney can mount the best case to ensure that you receive fair compensation.
The insurance company will attempt to gain access to all your medical records to defend against your claim. Your personal injury lawyer will fight to protect your privacy and only have relevant information released to the insurer.