The most common defense in a personal injury claim is that the Plaintiffs injuries were pre-existing. This is a favorite tactic of the big automobile insurance carriers (State Farm, Allstate, Geico, and Progressive) It is fairly common to suffer from a preexisting injury or medical condition that an accident makes worse. Under Florida law, the person causing the accident is liable for any aggravation or worsening of your preexisting condition. More importantly, if the jury cannot properly apportion the damages, the judge will instruct to jury that they should award the Plaintiff all the damages as if the entire condition was caused by the accident.
What is a preexisting condition?
A preexisting condition is a medical condition or injury that you suffered to a part of your body prior to the accident in question. We find this most often with neck and back injuries. While there are many types of preexisting conditions, some common ones are:
- Degenerated discs in the back or neck;
- Head injuries;
- Herniated discs;
- Neck injuries;
- Shoulder injuries;
- Spinal cord injuries; and
- Strains and sprains of other body parts.
The insurance company for the person who caused your accident will likely try to avoid paying your claim by trying to prove that your injuries were all the result of a preexisting condition and that the accident did not result in any new problems or injuries.
How can I prove my preexisting condition was aggravated by a later accident?
Preexisting injury cases can be complicated. Therefore, it is important that you tell the doctor who is treating you for the accident all of your prior medical history, including previous injuries such as the ones listed above. This is critical to obtaining the best medical care from your doctor, since he or she can treat you properly and effectively only if he or she knows your medical history. It is also critical to proving that the accident made your condition worse.
It is also important that you share your medical history and records with the attorney who is representing you in the accident claim. Because the insurance company for the party who caused the accident will try to claim that your problems were preexisting, your lawyer needs to be able to present evidence that proves the accident made your condition worse. Thus, it is essential that you, your doctor, and your lawyer be able to identify, document, and explain specifically how the accident made your condition worse. Indeed, your preexisting condition may have made you more vulnerable to injury in the accident.
If you can prove that the accident aggravated your preexisting condition, then you may be able to recover some or all of the following damages that resulted from the accident’s aggravation of your condition:
- Past and future medical bills;
- Past and future lost wages;
- Loss of consortium;
- Loss of enjoyment of life;
- Pain and suffering; and
- Punitive damages (in cases where the other person’s accident-causing behavior or negligence is extreme).
Remember, that the amounts of the recovery for the damages listed above will depend on the extent to which the accident aggravated your preexisting condition.
If you or a loved one has been injured in accident, regardless of whether you suffer from a preexisting condition, please obtain medical attention immediately. Then, please contact us for a free and confidential consultation about your case.