Aggravation of a Pre-Existing Injury


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At times, new accidents may affect pre-existing wounds or damage done to the body from other accidents. The new injuries may cause previous ones to become worse, or they may cause brand new issues coupled with old issues. Typically, the previous harm done to the body that may be worsened has to do with the neck, back and/or the head. In some cases, prior injuries may have long since healed. In other cases, a new injury exacerbates an ongoing issue.

Accidents involving pre-existing injuries may be more complicated than other types of claims, so accident victims often turn to personal injury attorneys for assistance in seeking compensation in these types of cases.

Legal Claims

Many accidents involving new injuries that cause previous wounds to recur or worsen are due to automotive accidents. Most accidents that are the source these issues are created through negligence on the part of the other drivers on the road. This form of negligence may lead to litigation. When the insurance carrier refuses to pay or will pay at a reduced rate for bodily damage, it may become necessary to file a lawsuit against the negligent driver.

Previous Claims Payment

Some states have laws that force an insurance carrier to pay for damage from pre-existing injuries. Once certain types of damage have occurred to the body, it is then prone to successive injury in the future. The legal basis for recovery is known as the “eggshell doctrine,” which means that the victim is taken as he or she comes. A person should not be able to escape financial liability simply because the person he or she injured is more vulnerable or has a pre-existing condition.

If litigation is required, the claimant does not obtain payment or repayment for injuries prior to the accident that are not related to the case. Any pre-existing conditions that are worsened or recur because of the motor incident must be paid by the negligent party.

Insurance Defense

Many insurance companies will reject new claims when pre-existing conditions arise. They may allege that the claim is “pre-existing only,” meaning that they believe that the victim’s injuries are not related to a new accident and the fact that the victim has suffered an injury has no bearing on the insured. This is a way for insurance companies to deny any financial responsibility for the accident as they allege that any new injuries are simply stemming from previous accidents. In other cases, the insurance company may use this defense to decrease the amount of compensation it offers the victim.

When attempting to obtain proof to support the belief that the injury is based on a previous accident, the insurance company usually asks for the victim to sign a medical authorization. This authorization may provide unrestricted access to the victim’s medical records, depending on how the form is worded. Most personal injury attorneys strongly recommend against having such forms signed and will insist on providing the insurance company with medical records of their choosing, not the insurance company’s preferred records. This is because such forms are often used against victims to lower or eliminate financial compensation.

Legal Assistance

Due to the increased likelihood of an insurance denial, many accident victims seek the legal advice and assistance from a personal injury attorney after a pre-existing injury is aggravated due to the negligence of another party. These cases may be more complex and may require the assistance of a medical expert to help clarify the damage from a previous injury compared to the damage stemming from the latest accident.

The vast majority of personal injury cases are settled and most do not manifest into an actual lawsuit. A lawyer may be able to present a demand letter and clear evidence that shows aggravation of a pre-existing injury to help substantiate the victim’s case. Personal injury attorneys can help assess the true damages that a person has sustained, including pain and suffering, the amount of medical expenses that will accrue in the future, the previous amounts of medical expenses accumulated, loss of earning capacity, loss of services and loss of consortium, when applicable. When looking for the right personal injury attorney, accident victims should seek one who is familiar with the type of accident involved, pre-existing conditions and insurance claims.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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