Can I Be Compensated For Pre-Existing Conditions After a Car Accident?
The insurance company may claim your pre-existing condition prevents you from recovering the compensation you deserve for your car accident claim.
Do not let a claims adjuster scare you away from seeking full compensation for a car accident injury. Our lawyers have extensive experience handling car accident cases involving pre-existing conditions.
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What is a Pre-Existing Condition?
Being in a car accident is stressful enough without fighting an insurance company for the compensation you deserve. However, many insurance companies deny valid car accident claims based on illegal, unethical, or false allegations. A common reason insurance companies use to justify a denial of the claim is pre-existing conditions.
Insurance companies use a prior accident or medical condition to claim that the accident did not cause your current injury. Therefore, you are not entitled to compensation for the injury. This tactic can be frightening for some accident victims.
A pre-existing condition is an injury, illness, or health-related condition you had before the car accident. The pre-existing condition may have occurred because of another motor vehicle accident, workplace injury, or other accidental injury. Pre-existing conditions also include chronic illnesses and impairments resulting from illnesses.
Examples of pre-existing conditions include, but are not limited to:
- Concussions, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Other Head Trauma
- Degenerative Disc Disease
- Whiplash and Neck Injuries
- Fractures and Broken Bones
The fact that you have a pre-existing condition does not necessarily prevent you from recovering compensation for a car accident, However, it could make receiving full compensation for all damages more difficult.
Your first step is to retain an experienced Philadelphia car accident attorney to help you with your case.
Can I Recover Compensation for Pre-Existing Conditions After a Car Crash?
As a general rule, you cannot be compensated for a pre-existing condition after an accident. You must have sustained injuries or harm from the car accident to receive compensation from the other party.
However, there are cases in which a victim can receive compensation for a pre-existing condition after a crash. If the car crash caused the condition to worsen, you could receive compensation for the damage above and beyond what you had already suffered because of the pre-existing condition.
Insurance companies view pre-existing conditions differently. They want to use pre-existing conditions against victims. If the company can successfully argue that your current injury is nothing more than a prep-existing condition you had before the accident, it can deny your injury claim.
How Do Insurance Companies Find Out About Pre-Existing Conditions?
In most cases, the accident victim discloses the information before retaining a car accident lawyer.
A claims adjuster may tell you that the insurance company requires a recorded statement before it can process the claim. You agree because you need to settle your claim. The adjuster proceeds to ask you questions about the accident and your injuries.
During the conversation, the adjuster may “chat” with you regarding various subjects. Remember, adjusters are trained and skilled investigators. They understand how to ask questions to elicit responses.
For example, the adjuster may comment that this injury is painful and that he had a similar injury from an accident. He may comment on how he understands this circumstance can be difficult for someone who has never been injured. Before you know it, you are telling the adjuster about a prior accident, injury, or illness without even realizing you could be hurting your claim.
Signed Medical Records Release
Another way the insurance company searches for pre-existing conditions is by looking through your medical records. The claims adjuster may explain how the company needs copies of your medical records before it can approve your claim. It makes sense to you, so you sign a HIPAA release so the insurance company can get copies of your medical records from the accident.
However, unless you read the release carefully, the release may not limit the records to the accident. The insurance company could obtain your medical records for years. It is not ethical, but it can happen if you do not have an attorney.
Do I Have to Disclose a Pre-Existing Condition?
Failing to disclose a pre-existing condition during a personal injury case could be a costly mistake. The insurance company has resources for discovering information. Failing to disclose relevant medical history could make you appear dishonest, which is a quality juries do not appreciate in victims.
You need to be honest and upfront with your personal injury lawyer. Tell your lawyer immediately if you have any health-related conditions or prior accidents.
Your lawyer can work with your physicians to determine if your pre-existing condition was a factor in the severity of your current injuries. Your physician can also document if your current injuries caused your pre-existing condition to worsen. This information is essential to your case.
After gathering evidence and evaluating medical records, your attorney can prepare a statement for the insurance company to disclose the pre-existing condition. By attacking the problem head-on, you control the narrative. Otherwise, you are forced into a defensive strategy when the insurance company attempts to deny or undervalue your injury claim based on a pre-existing condition.
The bottom line is that you are far more likely to recover compensation for your car accident injuries if you are upfront and honest. However, always be upfront and honest with your lawyer first.
The Eggshell Plaintiff Doctrine in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania follows the eggshell doctrine or eggshell skull doctrine as do other states. The theory maintains that a person should not be penalized in an injury case because the person may have been “fragile” at the time of the accident. The “fragile” part of the theory is where we get the name “eggshell.”
The Victim is Not In Control
In other words, if a person throws an egg to the ground, the egg breaks. If the person throws an apple to the ground, it may merely bruise. However, if the person throws a rock on the ground, the rock is unlikely to be damaged.
The objects are not in control of what happened to them. They cannot be held at fault for the damage sustained from being thrown on the ground. The same is true when a person is injured in an accident.
An accident victim has no control over the actions of the at-fault party. Therefore, the eggshell doctrine states that the at-fault party is liable for all damages sustained by the victim, even if the victim’s current condition results in more severe injuries and damages.
The At-Fault Party Accepts the Victim “As Is”
It would be the same as arguing that a person who is in their 80s should not receive as much compensation for injuries as a person in their 20s because the older person is more susceptible to serious injury compared to the younger person.
The at-fault party assumes the liability for all damages, regardless of whether the injuries are new or a worsening of pre-existing health conditions. Put simply, the eggshell theory means that the at-fault party takes the victim “as is” at the time of the accident.
How Do Insurance Companies Use Pre-Existing Conditions in the Face of the Eggshell Theory?
To recover compensation for a car accident claim, you must prove the other driver caused the accident. You must also prove that the accident caused your injuries.
The insurance company hopes to convince a jury that your car accident injuries are actually a pre-existing condition. The insurance company is not liable if the car accident did not cause you harm or injury. It is up to you to prove that your current injuries are either new injuries caused by the wreck or a worsening of a pre-existing condition.
Seeking medical attention after a car crash is always important. However, if you have a pre-existing condition, prompt medical attention is vital. Delays in medical care strengthen the insurance company’s argument that the car accident did not cause your injuries.
Steps to Take After a Car Accident When You Have Pre-Existing Conditions
There are three critical steps to take after a car crash if you have pre-existing conditions:
1. Go to the doctor immediately. Even if you are only experiencing slight pains or minor symptoms, seek medical treatment as soon as possible. Describe your symptoms to your doctor so that he can determine what diagnostic tests are needed to diagnose your condition.
2. Do not talk to the insurance company. Do not provide recorded or written statements. Also, do not sign any documents for the insurance company. Remember, telephone calls with insurance companies may be recorded even if you are not informed of the recording.
3. Contact a Philadelphia car accident attorney right away. Let your attorney know that you have a pre-existing condition. Give your attorney as much information as you can about your condition and allow your attorney to talk to your physicians.
Damages Available for Worsening of Pre-Existing Conditions After a Car Accident
If the car accident resulted in your pre-existing condition becoming worse, you might receive compensation for:
- Medical treatment associated with the worsening of the condition
- Loss of benefits and income
- Permanent impairment
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Physical and emotional pain and suffering
- Loss of quality of life, and
- Personal care costs.
Zavodnick, Zavodnick & Lasky, LLC will fight tirelessly to help you secure maximum compensation. Just give us a call to arrange a time to chat about the details of your case today.
How Long Do I Have to File a Claim for a Car Accident That Caused my Pre-Existing Condition to Worsen?
The Pennsylvania statute of limitations for car accident claims is generally two years from the date of the car accident. If you want longer to file a claim for injuries arising from a car crash, you could lose your right to seek compensation for damages through the court.
However, do not wait too long to talk to an attorney. The longer you wait, the more chance that evidence may be lost. Also, you could make errors that might jeopardize your case.
Why Do I Need a Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawyer if I Have a Pre-Existing Injury or Medical Condition?
Car accident claims can be complicated. Insurance companies have teams of investigators and other professionals protecting them from liability. You need a legal team working for you to protect your best interests.
Claims involving pre-existing conditions can be even more complicated. You need substantial legal evidence to prove that the crash worsened the pre-existing condition. You also need strong evidence proving the extent of your damages.
Quick, experienced, and decisive action are necessary to protect your legal rights. A personal injury attorney provides that and much, much more.