Any car accident claim can be difficult for a victim to navigate. If that victim has a pre-existing injury, however, it can be even harder to obtain a fair settlement from an insurance company. An insurance carrier might try to use a pre-existing injury as a reason to deny the claim or reduce payout. Learning how a pre-existing injury or condition might affect your personal injury claim can help you prepare for the process ahead.
What Is Considered a Pre-Existing Condition?
A pre-existing condition in terms of personal injury law is any health or medical condition for which the claimant has already received treatment or medical advice before the date of the accident. It can refer to any illness, injury, disease, mental health condition, nervous disorder or ailment the claimant had with reasonable medical certainty before the accident. Common pre-existing conditions include back injuries, degenerative disk disease, prior bone fractures, soft-tissue injuries, whiplash and brain injuries. Pre-existing conditions can also refer to asthma, diabetes and other medical conditions.
How Can it Affect an Injury Claim?
Having a pre-existing condition can impact your claim in a couple of ways. First, it could make the injuries you suffered in the accident worse than they would have been without your pre-existing condition. If you have degenerative disk disease, for example, a car accident could exacerbate this condition and cause an injury such as disk herniation. Your injuries and symptoms could be worse than someone without the pre-existing condition in the same situation. You may be eligible for greater compensation.
If an accident exacerbates a pre-existing condition, file an insurance claim for your injuries – including any physical ailments the accident worsened. A pre-existing injury will not bar you from recovery. You will have the right under the eggshell skull rule to claim damages for the aggravation of a pre-existing condition. The eggshell skull rule is a legal doctrine giving a plaintiff the right to obtain compensation from a defendant for a negligent or intentional tort that worsens the plaintiff’s pre-existing condition. It states that a defendant at fault for the tort will be liable for the victim’s injuries as-is – even if a pre-existing condition or peculiar characteristic magnified those injuries.
How to Handle a Claim Involving Pre-Existing Injuries
A pre-existing injury should not interfere with your right to recover compensation; however, an insurance company might tell you otherwise. The insurance company that receives your accident claim might try to avoid payout by alleging your injuries were pre-existing. The insurer might try to argue that you had the injuries before the accident and that its policyholder is, therefore, not liable for your damages. It is important to handle these claims carefully if you wish to recover fair compensation from a defendant in Texas.
Go to the hospital immediately after a personal injury accident. Disclose all pre-existing conditions. Keep copies of your medical records and treatment plans to show an insurance carrier later. When you file your insurance claim, do not sign anything or give the insurance company permission to access your medical records without first talking to a lawyer. The waiver the insurer might want you to sign could grant the company access to your full medical history rather than only the records related to your recent accident. This is a ploy an insurance company could use to try to argue the ineligibility of your injuries for coverage.
Hire a lawyer to help you with a claim involving a pre-existing condition or injury an accident exacerbated. These claims can be complicated and require a lawyer’s knowledge and skill. A lawyer can gather the correct medical records, protect you from insurance carrier bad faith, hire medical experts and argue for maximum compensation on your behalf. A pre-existing condition should not keep you from financial recovery after an accident in Texas. Work with a Dallas personal injury attorney to obtain the best possible results for this type of injury claim.