What If a Car Accident Made My Pre-Existing Condition Worse?

August 10, 2023 | By Impact Legal Car Accident Attorneys
What If a Car Accident Made My Pre-Existing Condition Worse?

It wouldn't take long to recount an instances when insurance companies pounced on the presence of a plaintiff's pre-existing injury as an excuse to shrink a settlement offer or reject an insurance claim altogether. This is all despite the fact that many times car accidents do exacerbate injuries that occurred pre-accident. A pre-existing condition made worse by someone else's negligence should not be held against you. It's not only unfair, it's also not in accordance with Arizona law.

Unfortunately, your prior injury can complicate matters. It's advisable to hire a car accident lawyer as soon as possible to help you prove that the accident did make your pre-existing condition worse. A lawyer can also help you understand what type of damages you are able to seek, as the prior condition could present some limitations.   

If you have found yourself in an overwhelming situation after an accident, give Impact Legal a call or text today at (602) 345-1818. You can also fill out our convenient online form to schedule a free initial consultation. 

What Is a Pre-Existing Condition?

A pre-existing condition is a health condition, injury, or illness that occurred before your auto accident. 

For example, if you were hurt on a job site in May, resulting in a herniated disc, then, in June, you were in a car accident. That herniated disc would be considered a pre-existing condition, meaning it was not a result of the car accident and instead existed prior to that event.

Does My Pre-Existing Condition Matter?

Yes, your pre-existing injury could play a large role in the outcome of your car accident settlement, which is why it's advisable to consult a car accident attorney. This is especially true if a car wreck made your existing injury worse (see below). 

Don't be surprised to find an insurance company going to great lengths to claim that your injuries pre-dated the accident so they can reject your insurance claim. If this happens to you, you could have a case, as insurance companies are required by law to act in good faith. Even so, the reality is that many times insurance providers will grasp at anything to avoid paying out settlements. Take for example a former football player injured in a car accident, suffering a concussion. To avoid paying out a settlement, the insurance company might point to the football player's history of hits and tackles in an effort to claim that the head injury pre-dated the accident. 

To avoid scenarios like this, consult an attorney as quickly as possible, and don't give the insurance company access to any of your medical history, or tell them anything that could later be used against you.  

Additionally, pre-existing conditions should not be held against you. Arizona acknowledges the “Eggshell Skull” Rule (sometimes referred to as the “Thin Skin” Rule), which states that no matter your previous condition, an at-fault defendant will still be held liable for any injuries they cause as a result of their negligence. This protects plaintiffs who, as a result of pre-existing conditions, are more fragile and more prone to serious injury in an accident. An example of this might be an 89-year-old plaintiff who is more severely injured in a crash because of his age; the 27-year-old defendant who caused the crash would not be less liable because the plaintiff was older and more susceptible to greater injuries. 

Your pre-existing condition plays a role in your situation, and it should not be held against you. To ensure that you're treated fairly, despite any pre-existing conditions, consult an attorney to help you navigate your case, as well as communicate with the insurance company.  

What If the Car Accident Made My Pre-Existing Condition Worse?

If your injury was exacerbated by the wreck, it's another complication thrown into your case. Typically, insurance companies will not compensate for injuries or conditions that existed before your incident. However, there is an exception when an accident has made your condition worse. 

If we take a look back at the work injury scenario above, an accident that has further damaged a plaintiff might look like this: The car accident impact was so severe that the plaintiff sustained a back injury that resulted in additional herniated discs, which affected his muscle function causing his doctor to recommend surgery to fix the issue. The accident has clearly made the injury worse, and the plaintiff can seek compensation for those damages.

The key is proving that the pre-existing injury was in fact made worse by the car accident. Some evidence that might be helpful includes:

  • Medical records from before and after your accident, including X-rays, MRIs, prescriptions, etc
  • Statements from your doctor about the treatment of your injuries before and after the car accident
  • Expert statements from professionals who have reviewed your medical records, injury, accident details, etc

An experienced car accident lawyer in Phoenix, AZ will help you form the strategy needed to get the compensation you deserve so that you and your family can get your health back on track. 

Damages Available in a Car Accident Case with a Worsened Pre-existing Condition

When you've been in an accident that has caused further damage to your pre-existing injury, there are several damages you can seek, including:

  • Medical bills that resulted from the accident, and any future medical expenses due to the accident that you will incur
  • Lost income and wages
  • Disability
  • Pain and suffering
  • Wrongful death
  • More

You have a right to seek any damages from a liable client who caused them, however, a prior condition could make the valuation of your case more complex. You won't receive compensation for any expenses that pre-dated the accident. For example, if you were on a medication for your pre-existing injury before the accident, you cannot seek compensation for that prescription. Though, you can and should seek compensation for costs associated with the aggravation of your condition. This is where your attorney will play a big role: identifying the specific details of your injury before and after the incident to prove that costs associated are a result of the crash. Your attorney will apply resources and time to gather the evidence that helps you get your rightful settlement. 

Should I Hire a Car Accident Lawyer If I Have a Pre-Existing Condition? 

Yes, you should consult an auto accident attorney as soon as possible. Pre-existing conditions add complications to the situation, and an attorney will ensure that you are treated fairly, despite any prior injuries or conditions. If you've suffered from a particularly worsened injury due to an accident, or if you've sustained more severe injuries because of a pre-existing condition, call Impact Law today to make sure you get the compensation you need to get back to your life. We're here to help you and your family, and we encourage you to give us a call or text at (602) 345-1818. You can also fill out our online form to schedule a free consultation.