The Dreaded “Pre-existing Condition” and What It Means for Your Personal Injury Claim

Imagine you were just in accident and you hurt your neck.  You file an insurance claim thinking everything will go smoothly.  After all, your neck did not hurt before your accident, but it sure does hurt now.  If you are like most people, you assume the insurance company will instantly recognize that the other guy was at fault and make you a reasonable settlement offer.  All too often, that does not happen.

That is because insurance companies have access to a database that tells them if you have ever made other insurance claims.  As soon as they find out you were in another accident (even if it was several years before), they start looking for ways to save themselves money at your expense.

If you are like most people, you have probably tried to reason with the insurance company.  You have repeatedly explained to them that your neck did not hurt before the accident but it hurts now. Likely, the insurance company has asked you to provide them a release that would allow them to contact your prior doctors and get the records from your prior injury. That is because they want the medical records that show you were hurt before the accident.

Insurance companies know that when people get hurt, they go to doctors.  The doctors create records about the treatment that can be used by the insurance company against the injured person. After most accidents, people get feeling better.  They move on with their lives, and do not think about their neck or back any more until they are involved in another accident. Regardless of how badly the recent accident affected them, the records from the old injury still exist. The insurance company will want to use them against that person.

Dealing with this situation can be very frustrating for people.  If this has happened to you, you probably feel you are being short-changed because the insurance company thinks your symptoms are the result of a “pre-existing condition.” You may feel that the insurance company thinks you are lying to them about your new injuries, or that they are trying to guilt you into accepting a low-ball offer. If you feel that way, you are probably right.  That is what they are trying to do, and you should not let them get away with it.

Most people have pre-existing conditions whether they realize it or not. No one gets through life without a few bumps and bruises, and time takes its toll on your neck and back. However, a pre-existing condition does not mean you should accept less than a fair settlement for your injury. Car accidents often make pre-existing conditions worse, but you may have a difficult convincing the insurance company of that fact on your own.

We see this very often with clients who wind up with serious neck or back injuries that require surgery.  The reality is if you are over the age of 40, you likely have some form of degeneration in your neck or back and you probably do not even know it’s there.  If your doctor is telling you that you need a cervical fusion surgery or a discectomy, there is a good chance the other person’s insurance company will argue you would have required surgery anyway because you have degeneration in your neck or back.

An experienced personal injury attorney can help you get a settlement that is fair. The only way to beat insurance companies at this game is to present the right legal evidence. Your attorney will know how to present the medical evidence, the witness testimony and the legal arguments in the most persuasive way possible. If you have a complicated case, you should definitely hire an attorney to make sure it gets handled correctly.

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