Pre-existing condition

Preexisting injuries don’t automatically dismiss your accident claim

If you are involved in a car crash and are injured, you may believe that a preexisting injury or health condition means you are not entitled to receive compensation. Insurance companies will often claim that your pain and suffering was due to a preexisting condition in an attempt to avoid paying you fair compensation. It’s important to know that if your existing condition is worsened or aggravated by an accident, you can, and should, seek compensation. Never take the insurance company’s word for it, always talk to an experience personal injury attorney to find out the facts for yourself.

Seeking compensation with a preexisting condition

New York law allows you to seek compensation for the aggravation or worsening of preexisting injuries.

For example, if you are in a car accident, and you break your leg, but two weeks earlier you had fallen down stairs and hurt that same leg, then;

  • Your accident injuries may cause you greater suffering because your leg was already damaged.
  • Your new injuries may mean you now need surgery, and healing takes longer.
  • Your leg could become less resilient.

The insurance company cannot blame you for hurting your leg two weeks earlier. These new conditions are caused by the car accident. If the accident was due to some else’s negligence, you can be compensated for your injuries. You cannot however be compensated for the preexisting leg problem. Your damages should not be reduced because you may have been more susceptible to an injury compared to a healthy person at the time of the accident. This is known as the “Eggshell” rule. An insurance company will do everything possible to minimize your injuries, by saying that the damage was due to a preexisting condition. You on the other hand must be able to prove that the injuries in your claim were directly caused by the accident.

You must follow the right procedure

Under New York law, aggravation of a pre-existing condition is an element of special damages which must be pleaded. An experienced personal injury attorney understands the nuances of the law and will make sure that legitimate injuries are presented in the right way to overcome the insurance company’s objections and avoid procedural mistakes that could interfere with your claim.

You will be required to provide detailed information and medical records about your preexisting condition to support your claim. This will include:

  • Past medical records – You will need to provide your past medical records to the insurance company to show the initial condition of the preexisting injury.
  • Recent medical records – Your doctor’s notes will be very important in supporting your claim, as they can establish whether the damage you sustained in the accident was due to the accident itself or your underlying condition.

It is important that your medical records show a causal relationship between the accident and your injury. You can tell your doctors what you are trying to prove so that they make their notes as detailed as possible. The best type of medical record is the one that states where a preexisting injury ends and a new injury begins.

Beware of insurance company tactics

The insurance company will seek to blow your previous injuries, or conditions, out of proportion in order to avoid paying your claim. They will ask to see your medical records, so it’s important to be aware that they are not entitled to see all of them. You must always be very careful when talking to insurance companies. If you make your prior condition seem large scale, they will argue that the car accident injuries are not responsible for your suffering. If you play down your condition, they may attack your credibility.

It is important to share all the information on the prior condition with your attorney.

You need to tell your attorney all the details of your old injury or preexisting condition, so he can defend your claim as best as possible. He will need to assess and quantify how much the new injury aggravated your previous condition. Preexisting conditions make your personal injury case more complex but should not prevent you from seeking compensation for legitimate injuries caused by an accident.

If you have been injured in a car accident you should consult a personal injury lawyer experienced in handling cases involving the aggravation of preexisting injuries. Attorney Greg Bagen has been helping accident victims with these types of complex claims for over 40 years.  Contact him now for a free consultation.

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