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“Pre-existing condition” is a hot-button word in 2017. When it comes to personal injury claims, pre-existing conditions matter, too. In order to receive compensation for your injuries you must prove that the accident caused your injuries. If you were injured before you were involved in the accident can you really say the accident caused your injuries? The answer is that it is complicated. It depends on how much your condition has changed post-accident and how much you can prove.
In any personal injury case, the party at fault for the accident is responsible for making the injured party whole. Said another way, that means that the at-fault party must make the injured party as close as possible to the way they were before the accident.
In practice, the at-fault party must pay to repair or replace the vehicle and pay for all the medical treatment necessary to make the injured party as healthy as he or she was before the accident. The at-fault party is under no obligation to leave the injured party better than they were before the accident or to compensate the injured party for injuries and damages the at-fault party did not cause.
That means that insurance companies, personal injury lawyers, and accident victims spend a lot of time arguing about whether or not the accident at issue is the actual cause of the injuries described by the injured party. If you broke your leg in an accident, the at-fault party should pay to have it fixed. If your leg was broken before it is considered a pre-existing condition. The at-fault party should not have to pay to fix it because your leg was broken before the at-fault party’s life ever intersected with the injured party’s life.
In accident claims there are two kinds of pre-existing conditions that matter: previous injuries and chronic conditions. In the first case, imagine that you have a broken femur, and on the way to the hospital for a checkup you are involved in an accident, and your leg that was already broken is injured again.
The question at issue is the same one outlined above. Does the at-fault party have to pay to fix your leg? It was broken before the accident. The answer is complicated, and it almost always requires expert testimony, but if the broken femur was made worse by the accident, the at-fault party will have to provide some compensation.
In the second case, imagine that you have chronic back pain due to a herniated disk. You are involved in an accident, and you receive a whiplash injury in the crash. Your back still hurts after the accident. Is the pain due to your already herniated disk or your whiplash? Only an expert can answer that question.
If you were injured in an accident after you were diagnosed with another injury or chronic condition, you are not barred from recovering damages from the at-fault party. It is just that your situation has gotten a lot more complicated. You are going to have to prove that your injuries were either caused or aggravated (made worse) by the accident. That means that you will have to provide medical records from before the accident and after the accident. You will also have to provide a medical opinion that states that the accident made your injury or condition worse, and that without the accident you would not be in your current situation.
If you can prove those two things, you should be fine. However, any case involving a pre-existing condition is automatically more complicated and subject to higher scrutiny. This is one the times when you should probably hire an attorney because you may be unable to navigate the process alone.
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