If you’re a personal injury lawyer, you probably know about “preexisting conditions.” This term sometimes comes into play in lawsuits. Preexisting conditions mean physical conditions a person had before an accident.
This sometimes becomes important with clients collecting compensation if a car wreck exacerbates an injury. Whether a client had an injury before the wreck or only after it comes into focus and can impact a settlement or a judgment amount.
If you’re not a lawyer, you may know little about how preexisting conditions and car wrecks work. We will go over that in detail right now.
The State In Which The Accident Took Place
First, it’s crucial you understand that various states have different car accident policies in place. For example, some states have no-fault status, meaning it doesn’t matter who caused an accident, at least not from a financial compensation standpoint.
Other states have fault status, meaning who caused the accident becomes vital. The at-fault party must pay the other individual’s medical bills, at least any ones their insurance didn’t already cover.
The state in which the accident occurred also matters with preexisting conditions. Various states have different viewpoints about this. If a car hits your vehicle, and it makes a preexisting condition worse, you must determine what your state says about these situations. If you hire a lawyer, they can also help you in this area since they’ve probably had similar cases before.
Insurance Companies And Preexisting Conditions
Let’s imagine a scenario for a moment. You’re driving and someone hits your car out of nowhere. You’re sure they caused the accident.
You feel okay immediately afterward, but within a few minutes, you start experiencing severe back pain. You have a preexisting back condition you’ve sought treatment for several times over the years. However, you have never felt back pain this bad before, and you logically conclude the car wreck exacerbated your existing condition.
In this situation, you can file a claim with the other driver’s insurance, thinking they should pay your medical bills. You’re in an at-fault state, so it makes sense for the other driver’s insurance to cover these costs. However, when the other driver’s insurance company investigates the accident and your injury claim, they learn you have a preexisting back condition.
It’s entirely possible the insurance company might say you would have walked away from the accident fine without your preexisting condition. They might say they’ll pay nothing because of it, or they may offer you a lowball figure they think you’ll take just to make the case go away.
Why Do Insurance Companies Act This Way?
It might distress you when an insurance company acts this way, and you may wonder why they’re doing it. It’s because insurance companies are for-profit entities.
This means they’d prefer to keep as much money every year as they can. It translates to larger bonuses for their executives, especially the highly placed ones at the top of the food chain.
Any time an insurance company can deny a claim, whether for a legitimate reason or a frivolous one, they will likely do it. That’s infuriating, but you can expect it.
In the scenario we described, with the car wreck tweaking your back injury and making it worse, you’ll probably need a lawyer who can represent you. Without one, it’s unlikely you’ll get any money from the insurance company at all, or you might get a tiny amount that won’t cover all your medical bills.
Where Does The Law Land On This?
The law in these instances states that if a car crash made a preexisting condition worse, the insurance company should pay your medical bills. Still, just because the law isn’t at all hazy, that doesn’t mean the insurance company won’t try muddying the issue.
Remember that you’re not after the at-fault driver in these cases. You’re going after their insurance company. These large and well-funded entities have many resources. They’ll likely have their own lawyers, and they probably have experience arguing in court about preexisting conditions.
The insurance company’s lawyers might say your preexisting condition isn’t worse after the accident. They may produce doctors and put them on the witness stand as well. They might try using your medical records against you if they feel they can safely do it.
The doctors they use aren’t independent and impartial. They’re insurance company doctors. They’re unscrupulous, and they may say your preexisting condition makes determining further damage impossible. It’s challenging sometimes convincing a jury otherwise.
Can You Get The Money You Deserve?
Sometimes, you won’t get all the money you feel you deserve because a preexisting condition makes determining a new injury’s severity difficult. You must prove conclusively that your condition has gotten worse. If you have X-rays, an MRI, or something else establishing that, you should get a judgment in your favor. If you have your word and nothing else, that might convince a jury, or it may not.
This isn’t the best news, but when these situations arise, you can usually expect at least a settlement offer. The insurance company might offer an amount that isn’t quite what you wanted, but at least you can get something.
You can always turn it down. If you and your lawyer talk, and your attorney feels you can still convince a jury the accident made your condition worse, even without conclusive medical documents, then you might try that. This tactic may lengthen the trial, but you might see more money at the end of it. There’s no guarantee that will happen, though.
Preexisting conditions often complicate personal injury cases. The headaches they create might eventually get you to where you’ll accept a settlement, even if you wanted more money than what’s on the table.
If you have a great lawyer, that should help. The better medical proof you can produce that the car wreck made your condition worse, though, the more likely you can get the amount you feel you deserve.