When you are injured in a car accident, it can be difficult to navigate the many areas of red tape that go along with a personal injury claim. From communicating with the insurance companies involved in getting medical care, handling a car accident injury can be a whole new world for most people.
This confusion is often made worse when a pre-existing condition is thrown into the mix. When a car accident exacerbates or makes worse, a problem that you already had, it can affect your personal injury claim and your care. By talking to the insurance company and answering questions before you retain a lawyer, you may be giving up your rights to your benefits without realizing it.
Many times, an insurance company will use a pre-existing condition as a reason to deny your claims or reduce your benefits. When this happens, you need an experienced attorney to fight for your rights.
What Should You do if You Have a Pre-Existing Condition?
When you are in a car accident and you know you have a problem already, your job is to make sure you have fully disclosed your condition to your attorney. Medical conditions that existed before the accident will not be compensated for in a personal injury claim, but if those same conditions were exacerbated by the crash, you are entitled to payment for the increased pain and suffering you have experienced.
However, how those pre-existing conditions are handled can make or break your lawsuit. If a prior condition was not fully disclosed to the attorney and the insurance company and it comes up during the investigation, this discredits you and can force you to lose your lawsuit.
To be safe, fully disclose all injuries you have had in the past, even if they seem unrelated to the car accident. It is better to provide too much information than too little. Don’t be concerned that what you provide may be used against you. That is why you have a personal injury attorney on your side working with you to protect your rights.
How Your Medical Records are Used
In a car accident claim, medical records are the most important pieces of evidence your attorney has to support your claim and win your case. Pre-existing conditions level the playing field somewhat and are used by both the defendant and the plaintiff to try to prove their sides.
The defendant’s lawyer will try to show that your condition was already there and thus the defendant is not responsible for any damages you are claiming in that area. But your attorney can compare previous and past medical records, bringing in expert medical witnesses to provide testimony objectively that proves your condition after the accident was worse than it was before.
Even without an expert medical witness, it is possible to use the doctors’ records to show exactly what your condition looked like prior to the motor vehicle crash and how far it had worsened since the accident.
Always follow your doctor’s instructions and attend any appointments that you are referred to, as you never know which records may make the difference in winning your case for you.
These records can be in the form of an MRI or x-ray from your medical history versus the ones obtained after your accident. It can also come from expert witnesses in the medical field who can testify on the scientific effects of your specific crash details on the human body, especially a body already injured.
The extent of the amount of compensation you may be able to receive will depend on how much your condition was exacerbated and the other injuries you may have sustained. If your injury had been almost healed or fully healed and now you are suffering again, you may have a strong case for recovering damages.
Be Careful What You Say
It’s a fact - car insurance company adjusters are trained in asking just the right questions in just the right way to be able to use your answers against you. There’s no menace in this. Their ultimate bottom line is saving money, and they are doing their job as they are trained.
But you have to be careful, especially if you have a pre-existing condition. The insurance company will try to get out of their responsibility in paying your claim and compensating you for your injury by attributing your injury to the pre-existing one you already had.
When you first contact your insurance company, what you say and do can affect your claim later. That’s why it is often recommended that you call to report your claim and then leave the rest of the questions and answers up to a personal injury attorney to communicate for you.
The insurance companies involved will likely try to get you to sign an authorization form releasing your medical records to them. This form will allow them to contact any of your past medical providers, getting complete access to your entire medical history.
Never sign this form without speaking to your attorney first. By doing so, you could inadvertently be giving the insurance company the means to compile evidence discrediting you or records to be used against you.
It is highly recommended that you call a lawyer before signing any documentation the insurance company sends you. If you do sign anything, you could be giving away your rights to further compensation or allowing them to deny your claim entirely.
Pre-Existing Medical Conditions Don’t Always Destroy Your Claim
Don’t let the fact that you already had an injury stop you from seeking medical care, filing a claim against the insurance company, and talking to a lawyer. If you feel like you were injured in the accident and your old injuries are worse than they were before, you have legal rights to your insurance benefits.
Always talk to an attorney before you answer any insurance adjuster’s questions related to your medical history. Never sign anything the insurance company gives you without letting your attorney read it over first and advise you. The insurance company does not have your best interest in mind, but your attorney does.