Navigating the aftermath of a car accident can be fraught with complications, particularly if you have a pre-existing medical condition. Many accident victims worry that their pre-existing conditions may undermine their accident claims, leading to a reduced settlement or outright denial. 

However, a pre-existing condition does not automatically disqualify you from receiving compensation for your injuries. In this blog post, we’ll demystify the impact of pre-existing conditions on car accident claims, providing you with a clear understanding of your legal rights and options.

What is a Pre-Existing Condition and How Does it Affect My Car Accident Claim

A pre-existing condition refers to any injury, illness, or medical condition that you had prior to the car accident. This could range from chronic illnesses such as diabetes or cardiovascular diseases to physical injuries like a previous sprain or fracture. 

When filing a car accident claim, the presence of a pre-existing condition can potentially be used by the insurance company to argue that your injuries were not caused by the accident itself but were instead due to your prior medical history. 

This can complicate the process of proving that your injuries were indeed a direct result of the accident. Yet, it’s important to understand that having a pre-existing condition does not inherently negate your right to compensation. 

The key is to convincingly demonstrate that the accident either aggravated your pre-existing condition or caused additional injuries.

What Types of Injuries Can Be Caused by a Pre-Existing Condition

In the context of car accidents, certain pre-existing conditions may be aggravated, leading to more severe or additional injuries. The nature of such injuries largely depends on the type of pre-existing condition and the dynamics of the accident. Let’s consider a few examples:

  • Degenerative Disc Disease: If you have this condition, even a minor car accident can cause significant spinal injuries. The force of the collision can exacerbate the degeneration, leading to acute pain, reduced mobility, and possibly requiring surgical intervention.
  • Diabetes: Diabetic individuals often suffer from slower healing rates. Thus, wounds or injuries from a car accident may take longer to heal, leading to complications such as infections or delayed recovery.
  • Previous Fractures: If a part of your body that was previously fractured is impacted in the accident, the bone might break again, often more severely than it would in a person without such history.

Remember, the critical factor in a car accident claim is not the existence of a pre-existing condition but the extent to which the accident exacerbated that condition or caused new injuries. Consult with a personal injury lawyer to understand your rights and the best course of action in your specific circumstance.

Tips for Proving That Your Accident Was Due to a Pre-Existing Condition

  1. Honesty is paramount: It’s crucial to be upfront about your pre-existing conditions with your attorney, your doctor, and your insurance company. Hiding or downplaying information could come back to haunt you, especially if the insurance company discovers inconsistencies in your statements.
  2. Keep thorough medical records: Before and after the accident, keep a comprehensive record of your medical treatments, doctor’s visits, medications, etc. These records can establish a baseline for your pre-existing conditions and demonstrate how the accident has aggravated them.
  3. Get a medical evaluation immediately after the accident: Seeking immediate medical attention can provide a clear link between the accident and your aggravated condition or injuries. The longer the gap between the accident and your medical evaluation, the easier it is for the insurance company to argue that other factors may have worsened your condition.
  4. Consistently follow your doctor’s advice: Your commitment to your recovery can contribute positively to your claim. Skipping appointments or not following your doctor’s advice could weaken your claim and be used against you by the insurance company.
  5. Consult a personal injury lawyer: An experienced lawyer can guide you through the process, helping you gather the necessary evidence, navigate the complexities, and advocate for your rights to receive fair compensation. Remember, insurance companies often have a team of lawyers on their side. Having a legal expert on yours can level the playing field.

The Role of Your Medical Records in Establishing Liability

Your medical records play a vital role in establishing liability in your car accident claim when you have a pre-existing condition. These records serve as crucial evidence to demonstrate how the accident has aggravated your pre-existing condition or caused new injuries. Here’s how:

  • Baseline establishment: Your pre-accident medical records help in establishing what your health status was prior to the accident. This serves as a baseline against which changes post-accident can be compared.
  • Linking the accident and injury: Records of immediate medical treatment after the accident can help in establishing a clear link between the accident and the worsening of your condition or new injuries. The absence of this link can be exploited by the insurance company to deny or reduce your claim.
  • Tracking progress: Regular medical records post-accident can track the progress or deterioration of your condition over time. They provide documented evidence of the impact of the accident on your health.
  • Cost of medical care: The records can also provide a clear account of the medical costs incurred due to the accident. This can be crucial in determining the compensation amount.

Remember, cooperation with your healthcare provider and maintaining honest, accurate, and comprehensive records can significantly strengthen your claim.

How Insurance Companies Use Pre-Existing Conditions to Deny Claims

Insurance companies are primarily focused on minimizing their financial liability, and they often use pre-existing conditions as a means to deny or reduce claims. Here’s how they typically use pre-existing conditions to their advantage:

  • Arguing the injury is not related to the accident: The insurance company could claim that the injuries were already present due to the pre-existing condition and were not caused or exacerbated by the accident.
  • Discounting the impact of the accident: They may argue that the accident had minimal impact on your pre-existing condition, thereby attempting to minimize the compensation amount.
  • Delaying the claim: Insurance companies may intentionally delay the claim process hoping that you’ll settle for a lower amount out of desperation or frustration.
  • Using non-disclosed pre-existing conditions: If you fail to disclose a pre-existing condition, and the insurance company discovers it, they could use this to accuse you of fraud and deny your claim.

It’s advisable to consult with a personal injury lawyer to effectively counter these tactics and ensure you receive a fair settlement.

Strategies for Pursuing a Car Accident Claim Despite a Pre-Existing Condition

Addressing a pre-existing condition while pursuing a car accident claim can be challenging, but it’s certainly not impossible. Here are some strategies that could increase your chances of a successful claim:

  • Thoroughly Document Your Pre-existing Condition: Ensure that you have detailed medical records outlining the nature of your pre-existing condition, your symptoms, your treatment plan, and the progress of your condition prior to the accident. This provides a clear picture of your health before the accident and can help differentiate between injuries caused by the accident and symptoms of your pre-existing condition.
  • Seek Immediate Medical Attention After the Accident: As soon as possible after the accident, seek medical attention, even if you feel your injuries are minor. This not only ensures that your injuries are taken care of promptly, but it also provides medical documentation linking your injuries to the accident.
  • Consistently Follow Your Treatment Plan: Adhere to the treatment plan recommended by your healthcare provider. Any gaps in treatment can be used by the insurance company to argue that your injuries aren’t as severe as you claim or that they are unrelated to the accident.
  • Retain a Personal Injury Lawyer: Navigating a personal injury claim with a pre-existing condition can be complex. An experienced lawyer can advocate for you, ensuring your rights are protected and providing guidance throughout the process.

Remember, a pre-existing condition doesn’t prevent you from pursuing a car accident claim. The key is to differentiate the impact of the accident from your pre-existing condition and to demonstrate that the accident caused new injuries or worsened your existing condition.

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