Generally, you cannot recover compensation for pre-existing conditions after a car accident. You are only entitled to compensation for injuries caused by the car crash.
However, the issue is much more complicated than a simple yes or no answer. In fact, you may be entitled to compensation if the car accident aggravates a pre-existing condition. Let’s look at pre-existing conditions in more detail and when you may be entitled to compensation for such conditions.
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What is a Pre-Existing Condition?
A pre-existing condition is a prior injury, illness, or health condition that you had before/at the time of your car accident. Examples of pre-existing conditions include, but are not limited to:
- Previous fractures and broken bones
- Degenerate disc disease
- Heart conditions
- High blood pressure
- Prior head injuries, brain injuries, and concussions
- A history of seizures or epilepsy
- Whiplash and other neck injuries
- Back and spinal cord injuries
- Soft tissue injuries
Although accident victims may not be entitled to compensation for pre-existing conditions, the at-fault party and the insurance company may be liable in some situations.
When Can I Recover Compensation for a Pre-Existing Condition?
An existing injury or medical condition may be aggravated during a car crash. For example, you may have sustained a concussion in a prior accident several years ago. The side effects from the concussion were mild and disappeared within a few weeks.
However, you were involved in another car accident that resulted in a head injury. Now, you suffer from chronic headaches, blurred vision, memory loss, and other symptoms of a traumatic brain injury. In addition, the injury has resulted in significant lost wages and medical expenses.
The prior concussion did not result in ongoing pain and suffering or interfere with your ability to work or perform daily activities. Your current condition was a direct result of the recent car accident. Therefore, the at-fault driver could be responsible for these damages because you would not have suffered the harm had it not been for the car crash.
The insurance company will argue that your prior concussion is the cause of your current condition. However, under the eggshell skull rule, an at-fault party cannot use a person’s pre-existing condition to avoid liability for causing further harm or injury. Nevertheless, you have the burden of proving that the car crash resulted in new harm by aggravating the pre-existing condition.
Beware of Insurance Adjusters Asking for Medical Records
The insurance company will search your medical history looking for pre-existing conditions it can use to deny or undervalue your claim. However, it cannot access your medical records without your consent. Therefore, a claims adjuster may ask you to sign a medical records release.
Unless the form is limited to records related to your accident injury, the insurance company could review your entire medical history. Most medical release forms prepared by insurance companies do not include limits on the records the company may request and receive. Therefore, it is not in your best interest to sign a release for medical records without consulting a personal injury attorney.
Recorded Statements Could Also Pose a Problem
Another tactic used by claims adjusters is the use of recorded statements. The adjuster may record your answers to questions about the accident.
However, adjusters do not always limit their questions to the accident. They may ask about your medical history and pre-existing conditions. However, disclosing your pre-existing condition during a recorded statement is not in your best interest; you could say something that might hurt your claim.
Instead, tell your St. Louis accident lawyer about your pre-existing conditions, prior accidents, and previous injuries during your initial consultation. Your lawyer handles disclosing this information to the insurance company at the correct time and in the proper manner. Failing to disclose pre-existing conditions could hurt your personal injury case.
What Compensation Could I Receive for Pre-Existing Conditions After a Car Accident?
If you prove that the car accident aggravated a pre-existing condition, you could receive compensation for damages such as:
- Past and future cost of medical treatment and care
- Past and future lost wages and benefits
- Reductions in future earning potential
- Permanent disabilities and impairments
- Physical pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Mental anguish and emotional distress
Valuing a personal injury claim involving pre-existing conditions can be tricky. A medical expert may need to testify how the accident aggravated your pre-existing condition to create new harm. The compensation you receive is limited to the new harm caused by the aggravation of a pre-existing condition.
The insurance company may present its own expert witnesses to refute your evidence. The process of obtaining compensation could be lengthy and challenging but possible.
Is There a Deadline for Filing Car Accident Claims Involving Pre-Existing Conditions?
Yes, the same statute of limitations for personal injury claims would apply to cases involving pre-existing conditions. According to Missouri Statute §516.120, most personal injury lawsuits must be filed within five years from the injury date. However, there could be exceptions to the rule, so always verify deadlines with a St. Louis personal injury attorney.
What if My Injuries Are Not From a Pre-Existing Condition?
An insurance company may blame accident injuries on a pre-existing condition, even though the injuries have nothing to do with the victim’s prior medical history. It may deny the injury claim by classifying the injury as a pre-existing condition. If this happens to you, you need to provide medical evidence to prove that the car crash caused your current injury.
Your attorney can help you locate medical experts to evaluate your injuries. The experts analyze your current injuries to determine the cause of the injuries. They provide expert opinions and evaluations that support your allegations that the car crash caused these injuries.
Schedule a Free Consultation With Our St. Louis Personal Injury Lawyers
Insurance companies use whatever information they can gather to limit their liability for an injury claim. Our St. Louis personal injury attorneys have experience handling accident claims involving pre-existing conditions. Contact our law firm to schedule a free consultation with an attorney to discuss your right to recover compensation for damages.