If you’ve ever dealt with an insurance company before, and the subject of your health has come up, you’ve probably heard the term pre-existing condition.
Today I’m going to talk about pre-existing conditions and what they mean for your personal injury claim or lawsuit. I hope you can use this information to avoid mistakes that can really undermine your injury claim or lawsuit.
What is a pre-existing condition, and why does it matter?
In a personal injury case, the term pre-existing condition comes up often in conversations with insurance companies and defense lawyers. It is shorthand for the defense saying “we don’t want to you pay you what it’s worth.”
What adjusters mean is that they believe your medical records show that you were already hurt and the car accident or slip and fall didn’t cause you any harm.
But this is a serious misrepresentation of the law.
The law in Vermont says that people who negligently cause injury to others are responsible for all the harms and losses that they cause. The law also says that negligent actors must take their victims as they find them.
Can you sue if an accident makes your pre-existing condition worse?
In short, yes. Insurance companies do have to pay you if their driver takes an existing injury and makes it worse than it was before a car accident. For example, if you have a medical condition that didn’t bother you before, and the accident causes it to bother you, that driver is responsible for what happened.
This also means that you don’t receive less money just because someone else was less likely to be injured in the same crash than you were.
If you had a pre-existing condition such as a bad back before the accident, or maybe you had a knee injury a few years ago? Had your ACL repaired and it was doing fine, and now the crash has made it worse.
Can you still make a claim? The answer is yes.
How do insurance companies look for pre-existing conditions?
This is usually done by looking at your medical history, both before and after the accident. If it turns out that you had a pre-existing condition that was made worse by the crash, the insurance company has to pay you for making it worse.
If you had a pre-existing injury, the insurance company or the jury must look at all of your injuries and determine which ones were made worse by the crash. And you are entitled to fair compensation for what happened to you.
What if an accident made my condition symptomatic?
Similarly, if the accident brought on or worsened a condition that you didn’t even know was there, the other driver is responsible, and the insurance company has to pay you.
The law also says that even if this crash would have caused only minor injury to someone else, if it caused you harm, the other driver is responsible for the harm that’s caused.
The law calls this the Eggshell Plaintiff Rule.
For instance, just about everybody over the age of 40 has some degenerative disc disease in their spine, or arthritis.
It’s totally normal, and for most people, they don’t even know it’s there.
If you’re over 40 and you’re in a crash, and that crash makes your back symptomatic, the other driver is responsible, even if the same crash would not have heard a 20 year old driver.
This is just a short introduction to pre-existing conditions and personal injury claims. I hope you found today’s article helpful. If you want the advice of an experienced Vermont accident lawyer, call Drew Palcsik at Champlain Valley Law.