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Pre-Existing Injury Aggravated in Car Accident

Missouri law states that an accident only needs to contribute to the cause of pain and the need for medical care. The burden of proof falls on the defense.

Thousands of Americans are treated for medical conditions every day. Chronic knee pain from a high school football injury could still plague a 35-year-old mail carrier. The force of a car crash may aggravate an old condition. It is only fair that you be compensated for that, even though the defense may think otherwise. It would be helpful to have a car accident lawyer on your side to prove them wrong.

Missouri law states that an accident only needs to contribute to the cause of pain and the need for medical care. The burden of proof falls on the defense. They would need to show that your pain and suffering are the same as before the accident and that you will only need to undergo the same treatment regimen. Such was the case with a 62-year-old man in Missouri. He had been treated for back pain for over a decade before his car accident. Pain management was intensive and included multiple types of injections and procedures. Responding to the defendant’s claims that the injuries were pre-existing, the plaintiffs’ lawyers focused on how their client was active before the collision. Before going to trial, a settlement of $69,000 was agreed upon.

Some may view the presence of a pre-existing condition as a weakness in your claim. However, in some instances, proof of a prior injury may actually show how it has been made worse as a result of the accident. If a mail carrier with a football injury has been receiving regular medical care that includes imaging the knee, then a scan of the knee taken after the accident will show how the condition has deteriorated as a result.

Since car accidents can cause injury to virtually any part of the human body, it stands to reason that any pre-existing medical condition or injury may be aggravated by it. Before filing your claim, insurance adjusters may attempt to scare you with their knowledge of your condition and offer you a small settlement. Do not be intimidated. Instead, defer them and their questions to your car accident attorney.

The most common pre-existing conditions defense lawyers look for are neck and back injuries, disc disease, and arthritis. Be upfront with your attorney about your past medical history. If your claim goes to trial, the defense will generally be allowed access to your previous medical history. By not divulging that information to your attorney, you would deprive him of the opportunity to review the records and prepare his counter-arguments. Your attorney may even be able to show how your prior injury made you more susceptible to the new one.

Should you disclose your Pre-Existing Condition?

St. Louis Car Accident Attorney

Your pre-existing injuries may contribute to the severity of your injuries in a car accident. In this situation, you may consider whether or not to talk about your pre-existing injuries with someone, thinking that revealing them may harm your car accident claim. However, you should never attempt to hide your pre-existing injuries, as it could do more harm than good.

Pre-Existing Injuries and Car Accident Claims

Trying to hide your pre-existing injuries after a car accident is not a good idea. There are four key principles related to pre-existing injuries and car accident claims. These include:

  1. The insurance company may eventually discover your pre-existing injuries if they decide to investigate your case and conduct research after the accident. If you think this cannot happen to you, think again.
  2. Pre-existing injuries are almost always discovered and discussed during the claim discovery process. Attorneys representing the defendant and the insurance company will likely ask you about prior injuries and accidents. You may even have to share your medical records with them.
  3. Attempting to conceal pre-existing injuries can do more harm than good. If pre-existing injuries are discovered by the other party, this could jeopardize your claim. The attorney and insurance company may think you deliberately concealed information about the pre-existing injury. They can use this information against you to imply that you are fabricating or exaggerating your symptoms. If there is a judge involved, you may have to face discovery sanctions, or you may be prohibited from presenting certain evidence if it is discovered that you tried to conceal your pre-existing injuries.
  4. Finally, hiding your pre-existing injuries may not help your claim because the at-fault party must take you as you are, which means that even if your injuries are worse than they would have been due to the pre-existing injuries, the at-fault party is still liable. However, there is an exception to the rule. You may not be able to seek compensation if your injuries would have occurred regardless of whether or not the car accident took place. In this case, your injury would be attributable to the pre-existing condition, not the accident. Hence, the other party cannot be held liable.

5 Common Pre-Existing Conditions Car Accidents Aggravate

man with neck pain after a car accident

1. Back Problems 

Generally, your spine cannot sustain heavy impacts. What’s more, trauma or impact from a car accident can stress your lower back and aggravate your already painful condition.

Some pre-existing back problems that can worsen after a car accident include spine arthritis and compression fractures. You may also experience extended lower back pain after an accident if the discs in your spine were worn out or broken before the accident. 

2. Neck Problems

During a car crash, sudden neck movement can aggravate pre-existing cervical arthritis or neck sprain. Sudden movements can also cause injuries such as whiplash, worsening pre-existing or degenerative neck injuries or conditions. 

3. Brain Injuries or Conditions

Previous brain injuries or conditions can also become more severe after an accident. For example, if you get involved in an accident while recuperating from brain trauma, you could suffer a second impact syndrome (SIS). SIS is a brain swelling that occurs when one suffers a second concussion before the first one has completely healed.

A car accident can also cause your body to release a surge of neurochemicals and hormones that cause insomnia and disrupted sleep. Insomnia and disrupted sleep can make brain injuries or conditions worse. 

4. Fractured Bones

If you have fractured bones, an accident is the last thing you want to happen to you. Car accidents greatly impact the body and can leave your healing bones in bad shape. 

5. Arthritis   

Naturally, arthritis is very painful and the impact of a car accident can make the pain even more severe, not to mention it can cause increased stiffness and swelling in arthritis-affected areas.

Pursuing Damages That Arise From Aggravation of a Pre-Existing Condition 

Under the eggshell skull rule, accident victims can generally recover compensation for the aggravation of a previous injury or condition. However, you should know that the at-fault driver’s insurer typically won’t compensate you without a fight. The insurer will likely come up with all sorts of defenses in an attempt to discredit your claim.

Therefore, it is highly recommended that you speak with an experienced St. Louis car accident attorney before speaking with any insurance companies or adjusters. An injury attorney can help you gather evidence to prove that the crash has aggravated your condition. 

Never allow an insurance adjuster to bully you into a low settlement just because of a pre-existing condition. Consult with an experienced car accident attorney before accepting any deal.

Free Consultation with a St. Louis Car Accident Lawyer

Don’t talk to an insurance claims adjuster before speaking with The Hoffmann Law Firm, L.L.C. We can help you avoid making statements that may affect the outcome of your case. The consultation is free; you don’t pay unless we get you money!

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Updated: May 9, 2024