Were you recently involved in a car crash in Clearwater, Fl? Insurance companies for at-fault drivers search for any reason to avoid paying a car accident claim. One argument an insurance adjuster may use to avoid paying an insurance claim is that you have a pre-existing condition.
Car accident cases may be more complicated when they involve pre-existing conditions. However, you can be compensated for pre-existing conditions after a car accident in specific circumstances.
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Am I Entitled to Compensation for a Car Accident if I Have a Pre-Existing Condition?
Sometimes. A motor vehicle accident may aggravate a pre-existing condition. For example, if you sustained a prior head injury in a slip and fall accident, another head injury from a car crash could cause Second Impact Syndrome. You may experience chronic headaches, cognitive impairments, and other symptoms you did not have before the car crash.
Another example might be a rear-end accident causing a prior back injury to worsen. Before the car crash, you could work and only had minor back pain. Now, you suffer chronic back pain and limited mobility.
An insurance company may blame seizures on an epilepsy diagnosis instead of the traumatic brain injury you sustained in the crash. Before the crash, medication controlled your seizures. However, you have seizures regularly after the car crash, even though you take medication.
In the above cases, you suffered new harm because of the automobile accident. The crash aggravated an illness or injury. If not for the collision, you would not have sustained the new harm.
When an insurance company discovers a pre-existing condition, it argues that the pre-existing illness or injury is the cause of your current health condition instead of the car accident.
However, the eggshell skull rule argues that the at-fault party is responsible for damages caused when a car crash causes a pre-existing condition to worsen. Therefore, the at-fault party cannot avoid liability for damages solely based on a person being more susceptible to injury because of a pre-existing injury or illness. The eggshell skull rule would also apply to a wrongful death claim.
However, you have the burden of proving that the collision aggravated your pre-existing condition, thereby causing new symptoms and damages.
What is a Pre-Existing Condition?
A pre-existing condition is an illness, health condition, or prior injury that you had before your car crash.
Examples of pre-existing conditions insurance companies may target after a car crash include:
- Prior head injuries, including traumatic brain injury, concussions, and skull fractures
- Neck injuries, including whiplash
- Fractures and broken bones
- Back injuries and spinal cord injuries
- Degenerative disc disease
- History of seizures or epilepsy
- Soft tissue injuries
- Heart conditions
- High blood pressure
The insurance company will claim that injuries or health conditions after a car accident result from a pre-existing condition. In other words, the insurance company refuses to pay damages by claiming the accident did not cause your injuries.
Proving that the car accident resulted in harm and damages are two necessary legal requirements for a negligence claim. If you cannot prove the car crash was the direct and proximate cause of your injury, you cannot recover compensation for damages.
Therefore, insurance companies aggressively search for proof of pre-existing conditions to limit their liability for car accident claims.
What Compensation for Pre-Existing Conditions Could I Receive After an Auto Accident?
If you prove that the car crash resulted in further harm by aggravating or worsening a pre-existing condition, you can seek compensation for damages such as:
- Medical bills
- Loss of benefits and income
- Pain and suffering damages
- Reduced future earning potential
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Permanent disabilities and impairments
However, you cannot include damages related solely to the pre-existing condition. Instead, the damages must relate specifically to the new harm caused by aggravating a pre-existing injury or illness.
Therefore, valuing a personal injury claim involving a pre-existing condition can be challenging. Your legal team may consult medical experts and specialists to gather evidence proving that the car crash caused new harm.
Of course, the insurance company may hire its own expert witnesses. Their witnesses argue that your pre-existing condition is the cause of your new symptoms.
It may be more challenging to prove damages when the accident victim has a pre-existing condition. However, it is possible. Courts have ruled in favor of plaintiffs when they can prove their new symptoms are the direct result of the car crash.
Beware of Requests from the Insurance Company for Medical Records and Written Statements
A common way that insurance companies get information about pre-existing conditions is by requesting recorded and written statements from an accident victim. In some cases, a claims adjuster may question the person by telephone and ask about their medical history.
It is not in your best interest to discuss prior illnesses or injuries with an insurance adjuster. Therefore, avoid talking to the adjuster or making a statement until you consult with a Clearwater car accident lawyer. An accident attorney can advise you of your rights regarding compensation for pre-existing conditions.
Additionally, do not sign a HIPAA release or medical records authorization for the insurance company. Many of these forms give the insurance company access to your complete medical history.
Hiding a pre-existing condition can hurt your case. However, you do not want to give the insurance company access to all your medical records. Instead, allow your lawyer to address the pre-existing condition in the appropriate manner.
Is There a Deadline for Filing Personal Injury Cases Involving Pre-Existing Conditions?
The same statute of limitations would apply to car accident cases involving pre-existing conditions that apply to other car accident claims. Generally, the statute of limitations in Florida is four years for a personal injury lawsuit. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule.
Because cases involving pre-existing conditions may take longer to resolve, it is best to hire a personal injury lawyer in Clearwater as soon as possible after a car accident.
What if the Insurance Company is Wrong About a Pre-Existing Condition?
Insurance companies are interested in one thing – avoiding liability for car accident claims. The companies do not make money by paying large settlements or jury verdicts.
Therefore, the insurance company may raise the issue of pre-existing conditions, even though your current injuries have nothing to do with a past medical condition or injury.
Do not believe an insurance adjuster who tells you that you are not entitled to recover compensation for a car accident because of a pre-existing condition.
Hire a reputable legal team with extensive experience handling insurance claims. Skilled personal injury attorneys understand how insurance companies operate and their tactics to avoid paying claims.