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When Auto Accidents Worsen Pre-Existing Conditions


Accident-worsens-conditionAuto accident injuries are not only painful, they’re complicated. Victims usually have a lot of difficult questions that need answering with few reliable sources they can turn to. The paperwork alone can be daunting, especially for an injured victim in pain.

Having a pre-existing injury or impairment can make it seem much more complicated. Take, for example, the case of someone with chronic back pain who experiences elevated back pain because of an auto accident. The victim may be surprised to hear the other driver’s insurance company is offering little or nothing, even when they admit their driver’s fault, because the victim was already suffering from an old injury.

Insurance companies often try to take advantage of a prior condition even when the victim’s condition obviously changed for the worse. They look for old injuries that the victim hasn’t complained about for years in order to minimize or deny a claim. So in addition to coping with the problem of being injured and experiencing worse pain, victims also have the humiliating insinuation that they’re trying to cheat the system.

Basic Principles

The problem of a pre-existing condition is governed by one simple rule: a driver who is 100% at fault is responsible for all injuries caused by the accident, and no injuries that were not caused by the accident. This certainly bodes well for any accident victim who had a condition making him/her unusually susceptible to pain or expensive treatment. The at-fault driver must “take the victim as he finds him.”

Just as clearly, if a victim with chronic pre-existing pain cannot prove that her pain was probably made worse by the accident, she must bear the cost of recovery for her pain because it cannot be attributed to the accident.

Although the rule seems straightforward, marshalling the medical evidence to show what’s new and what isn’t can take a lot of work. It requires the talent to paint pictures with medical records that make the before and after differences stand out in sharp relief. For trials, lawyers often create actual pictures of the victim’s medical condition using computer generated animation or digitally enhanced diagnostic images. Victims who try negotiating on their own learn quickly that insurance companies expect much more than complaints of greater pain.

Get a Medical Opinion

If you have a pre-existing condition and get in an auto accident, get medical treatment for the injury as soon as possible. If possible, visit the same medical practitioners that were treating your condition before the accident and create the documentation you’ll need to show the progression of symptoms.

It could take weeks or even months before you can prove or rule out the auto accident as having caused a new problem so be sure to follow up as necessary.   Diagnostic imaging such as CT scans or magnetic resonance imaging can be vital.

Show Lifestyle Changes

In addition to the physical changes that can be seen on an X-ray or MRI, there are the lifestyle changes that can be documented. If you were active in sports or rarely missed a day of work prior to the accident, gather documentation that proves a doctor will not clear you for those activities. Work absences are especially notable if you aren’t being paid for the days you aren’t able to work due to your injuries.

Don’t Try to Hide a Pre-existing Problem

It might seem tempting, but the worse thing you can do is try to hide a prior injury. In addition to potentially exposing yourself to suspicion of insurance fraud, failing to reveal your older problem to a medical care provider could waste thousands of dollars on unnecessary and misleading diagnostic testing and could even prove medically dangerous.

Injuries sustained in auto accidents can cause additional pain, missed time from work, changes in your daily life and months of medical appointments. When claims adjustors are added to the mix, an accident victim can easily feel overwhelmed.

By seeing your regular physician as soon as possible and keeping a paper trail, you’ll be prepared for any questions that arise, increasing the chances you’ll have a pain-free claims process. This coupled with an experienced Colorado personal injury attorney to help navigate these murky waters is a recipe for success. Please call McDivitt Law Firm today for a FREE consultation.

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