How a Car Accident Can Aggravate Pre-Existing Conditions

Key Points:

  • If you’ve been in a car accident, a pre-existing condition does not eliminate your chance to collect compensation.
  • Georgia’s Eggshell Plaintiff Doctrine dictates that pre-existing conditions that are aggravated or worsened by an accident are eligible for a personal injury claim.
  • Having assistance from a lawyer who has experience handling pre-existing condition claims can mean a much better chance of winning your case.

Car accidents can cause a wide variety of injuries to even the healthiest of victims. But when a victim has a pre-existing condition, the damage can be more severe and cause previous medical concerns to become far worse.   

Pre-existing conditions are ongoing medical issues that were present before your accident. Examples of pre-existing conditions might include an illness, such as asthma or diabetes, or an old sports injury that left the spine weakened or prone to re-injury.

Unfortunately, insurance companies will try to avoid paying almost any time a pre-existing condition is present. However, if your condition was worsened or further aggravated by your accident, then it may be included within your personal injury claim. Here’s what you should know when submitting a claim with a pre-existing condition.

How Pre-Existing Conditions Are Handled in Georgia

The State of Georgia adheres to The Eggshell Plaintiff Doctrine. This means that when somebody is injured by the negligence of another, the negligent party is responsible for whatever harm they cause. Therefore, even if you had an injury or medical condition before the accident, any additional damage, pain, or recovery time caused by the crash can be compensable.

It’s crucial to understand that insurance companies will likely try to fight a claim when they know a pre-existing condition was present. However, medical records from before and after the accident can help prove additional damage and, therefore, your claim should be covered.

pre existing conditions

What Is Considered a Pre-Existing Condition?

While not all pre-existing conditions may be worsened by an accident, some medical issues can certainly become more severe. For instance, a medical illness like cancer may not be worsened because of a collision. However, osteoporosis, which weakens the bones, may make recovery far more extensive for a victim who sustains bone fractures or breaks.  

Other conditions, such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, and diabetes, would not be caused by an accident itself; yet, the accident can certainly make the symptoms worse or cause additional concerns. If your existing condition is worsened, the negligent party may be required to compensate you for the care and treatment you would not have otherwise needed.

Proving if and how your condition was made worse can be a legal Rubik’s cube. There are procedural twists and turns that make collecting more difficult than it would be for more straightforward injuries. A seasoned personal injury attorney can help gather evidence to prove your case and formulate a strategy to ensure you receive a full and fair settlement­.

Common Pre-Existing Injuries That Are Worsened from Accidents

Neck Injuries

Naturally, the trauma from a car accident can cause serious damage. However, pre-existing neck conditions can contribute to increased pain or severity and prolonged recovery time.

If you have experienced neck injuries in the past, it’s likely that a new accident will re-injure the weakened or otherwise compromised area. So don’t be quick to dismiss these injuries because you think pre-existing conditions won’t be compensated.

Back Pain

Back injuries can be long-lasting and make mobility more challenging. When spinal or soft tissue injuries are worsened after an accident, it can immobilize the victim. This further damage may result in missed work and lost income, which should also be considered in your claim.

Heart Problems

In an accident, the force of the impact can cause trauma to internal organs, including the heart and its surrounding tissues. This type of injury can lead to a heart attack in otherwise healthy individuals, but it’s a more serious risk when a victim’s heart is already compromised by a pre-existing cardiac condition.

Any signs of chest pain or tenderness, trouble breathing, abdominal pain, or marked decrease in urine output following an accident may signal additional damage to the chest and internal organs. It is wise to consult a medical professional following an accident if you have pre-existing heart concerns.

Blunt force trauma to the head can seriously injure the brain. If a victim suffered previous concussions in the past, then additional brain trauma can make it more likely for them to develop long-lasting symptoms. The long-term effects of repeated concussions can include headaches, forgetfulness, and even personality changes.

Given the nature of car accidents, it’s not unusual for those who have previously experienced head trauma to suffer a worsening of the post-concussion syndrome symptoms mentioned above.

Bone Fractures

The skull, facial bones, spinal vertebrae, and collar bone are commonly broken or fractured in auto accidents. Hands, arms, feet, and legs are also injured frequently.

If you’ve previously suffered a fracture to one or more of these bones and are in the healing process, a violent accident certainly doesn’t help. It stands to reason that the healing of a previously fractured bone might be interrupted or complicated when an accident causes powerful stress on the healing bone. Even previously fractured bones that are encased in protective casts can suffer from the violent forces that come from a collision.

Your physician may wish to compare previous X-rays with new ones to determine if the accident has complicated or interrupted the healing process.

How to Prove a Pre-Existing Injury Case

To prove that an accident aggravated or worsened your pre-existing condition, you will need medical records, doctor’s notes, and, most likely, an experienced personal injury lawyer.

This battle can be challenging because insurance company lawyers are very experienced at wiggling out of such claims. There are likely to be a host of so-called “reasons” the insurance company won’t cover your injury. Their lawyers will likely declare that you are exaggerating your injury, and they are relentless in their efforts to deny claims.

Your attorney will know how to provide medical records and convincing testimony to prove your injuries were complicated and worsened by the accident. An experienced personal injury lawyer can offer your best chance of being compensated for legitimate claims of aggravation to pre-existing injuries.

Many victims worry that the cost of an attorney will be prohibitive as they seek a full and fair settlement. However, the truth is that many personal injury attorneys do not charge you for their services unless you win your claim. Furthermore, these same lawyers usually offer a free first appointment in which you can discuss your case.

At The Millar Law Firm, we are experts at garnering the most complete compensation packages for our clients. We have been successfully winning pre-existing injury cases for decades — and we know all the strategies to help you succeed in being fully compensated.

- D. Lo

I would highly recommend this firm and staff to everyone, they were great with my case.

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