Were you already dealing with a sore, aching back, an old knee injury from your college football days, or some other previous injury or condition before being involved in a serious accident? Has an insurance company requested medical documentation following your personal injury? You probably realize that this documentation is required to help assess the value of your personal injury claim; however, many are surprised to learn that this information may also be used to determine which of your injuries were caused by the accident – and which injuries already existed before the accident. It can be unnerving to discover that previous injuries (including those you might not even remember) may be used against you to affect the outcome of your claim.
The motivation for this is simple. The insurance company wants to declare as many of your injuries “pre-existing” as possible to minimize liability on behalf of their insured – the individual who caused your injuries.
What Is a Pre-existing Condition or Injury?
Regarding your personal injury claim, a pre-existing injury or condition is recognized as an injury or medical condition that affected you before you were involved in the accident in question.
What Does “Aggravation” of a Pre-existing Condition Mean?
When we talk about aggravation of a pre-existing condition, this refers to the incident in question causing a previously existing condition to become worse.
Old injuries and medical conditions such as herniated discs, joint and ligament damage, traumatic brain injuries, arthritis, can – and often do – become far more severe as a result of our clients being involved in serious collisions with commercial trucks, motor vehicle accidents, falls, and other such incidents. For example, an individual with a previous knee replacement may have walked with a limp and been affected by that condition, yet as a result of the new accident and subsequent injury, that individual may now require a leg brace, cane, walker, or wheelchair to get around. Additional damage and disability is clearly present in a case like this. It is ludicrous to presume that a serious accident cannot re-injure a previously healed injury or worsen a medical condition, resulting in significantly more pain and dysfunction. At Angotti & Straface Attorneys at Law, we see this often – and fight to protect the rights of the seriously injured throughout West Virginia.
How Can a Pre-existing Condition Affect My Claim?
Pre-existing conditions are extremely common. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, pre-existing conditions ranging from chronic illnesses to conditions affecting the bones, muscles, nervous system, and other areas of the body could affect as many as 1 in 2 Americans. Despite this, if you are an individual with a pre-existing condition you can be sure that it will be brought up and possibly even used against you in your personal injury claim. This is especially true if the pre-existing condition affects the same body area referenced in your claim, such as a spinal injury.
Pre-existing injuries and conditions can:
-complicate settlement negotiations.
-affect a jury’s ability to make a decision regarding the compensation you are entitled to receive.
-make you more likely to be injured in an accident (but this does not negate your right to pursue compensation for aggravation of the condition).
-result in unlawful denial of valid claims by the insurance adjuster.
If the incident in question caused damage to only the area of your body affected by the pre-existing condition, your personal injury claim may be treated as an aggravation claim.
What Can I Do If My Pre-existing Condition Has Been Aggravated by an Accident?
Although you obviously cannot seek compensation for an injury or condition you already had before the accident, you can pursue compensation for the additional damage caused by the accident. You do not have to settle for less financial compensation than you deserve. You know your body better than anyone else. If you know that a previous injury or condition was already healed/stable and the new pain and difficulties you are dealing with were caused by the negligent party, you have a right to seek a legal remedy. Although the process may be more complicated, do not be discouraged. The Angotti & Straface Attorneys at Law team has the legal knowledge and skill required to handle all types of serious personal injury cases involving pre-existing conditions.
Why Should I Disclose Previous Injuries?
Do not attempt to hide a pre-existing condition! Your honesty and credibility is of the utmost importance in a case such as this. It is important to disclose any pre-existing injuries and/or conditions you may have to the attorney representing your case.
Why Do You Need Access to My Medical Records?
You must provide your attorney full access to your medical records. Clearly connecting the effects of your recent injury with a previous injury or ongoing condition can actually strengthen your aggravation case. Over the course of a lifetime, you may have been diagnosed with an injury or condition without your knowledge (this is more common than you might imagine). You may also have forgotten. It happens. Because of this, we want to ensure we don’t miss anything. Again, your credibility is critically important. The insurance company of the at-fault party will be seeking (and scrutinizing) your medical records, as well. If you fail to be forthcoming and information regarding a pre-existing condition is later uncovered, your credibility will be at stake. And so, too, will your claim.
Seek Prompt Medical Treatment
You must prove that the accident caused a new injury or aggravated a pre-existing one. It is extremely important to receive medical treatment for your new injuries, as well as any symptom exacerbations. Your regular physician, surgeon, or other medical professional will be able to verify the state of your health prior to the accident and document and verify the degree the new injuries have had on your level of function, pain, and overall health.
If you were not previously under medical care for the pre-existing condition then required significant treatment following the accident, this can clearly indicate that your condition was aggravated. Additional mobility and functionality testing, work records, treatment from specialists in the field which addresses your condition, and testimony from medical experts can provide valuable insight. Furthermore, it can establish exactly how much of your present injury was caused by the liable party.
Contact Angotti & Straface Attorneys at Law
You do not have to deal with the stress and uncertainty of recovering from a major accident on your own. If you suffered a serious injury as a result of someone else’s actions – whether or not you had a previous injury or medical condition – contact Angotti & Straface Attorneys at Law immediately. We work hard to secure fair compensation for our clients and will not accept anything less than the maximum possible recovery for each client.
Our firm is focused on securing justice for the seriously injured, as well as families who have lost loved ones due to the negligent and malicious acts of others. Remember, time is limited to pursue compensation for your losses, so you must act quickly. Call Angotti & Straface Attorneys at Law today.
Contact Angotti & Straface Attorneys at Law for a free initial consultation: (304) 292-4381.