Consider this scenario:
Bob used to work in a warehouse and hurt his back lifting boxes. He received treatment for the injury, but several years later, the pain still bothers him, especially when he sits for long periods of time.
Recently, Bob was rear ended while driving. Ever since the accident, his back pain feels worse than ever. He has gone back to the doctor to try to get treatment, and the medical bills are really starting to add up. Besides that, it’s affecting his ability to perform his current job as a computer programmer. All of that time sitting at his desk is exacerbating his back pain and making it hard to focus.
Bob wants to file a personal injury claim to get compensation for his medical bills and time off of work, but he’s afraid the other driver’s insurance company will try to pass off his back pain as a pre-existing condition.
Sound familiar? If you are worried about how your pre-existing condition(s) will affect your personal injury claim, here are some tips to help you understand the legal process surrounding your situation and guide your actions as you pursue your claim.
Don’t get discouraged. In the 50 years that our law firm has been in business, we have helped thousands of people get compensation for their injuries—and many of them have had pre-existing conditions. It’s a fact of life that most people don’t come to us with a pristine health record. Rather, the majority of them are dealing with some kind of health issue—whether it be a past injury or a chronic condition.
Remember that the law accounts for your physical frailties. Nevada adheres to the oddly named “eggshell skull” law, which suggests that if someone injures you, they are responsible for the harm they caused—even if it occurred because your skull was as thin as an eggshell. The defense cannot use your frailties as an excuse to get out of paying for the full scope of the harm that their actions caused you.
Be honest. Do not try to downplay or hide your pre-existing health conditions. Share the full extent of them with your attorney so that they can build a case that accurately reflects the harm caused by your personal injury. If you have not been forthcoming about your pre-existing conditions and the defense finds out about them, it could discredit your entire case.
Get your doctor on board. Because these types of personal injury cases get very complicated, they often require the cooperation of your physician. Hopefully you have had regular medical checkups over the years and told your doctor about your pre-existing condition, as this can help in unraveling your ongoing health problems from those caused by the accident.
In addition, we advise all victims of injury accidents to see their doctor immediately—even if they’re not experiencing symptoms. Doctors can often catch medical problems before your symptoms develop and recommend a course of treatment to keep them from getting worse.
After this initial visit, make sure to follow-up with your doctor regularly and attend all additional therapies as prescribed. This shows that you are doing all in your power to get better, even if the injuries persist.
Document everything. Watertight cases are built with carefully documented evidence. Make sure to record the health difficulties that you are experiencing as a result of the accident. It may be helpful to keep a daily log of your symptoms. You should also make sure that you hang onto all medical bills, including bills for prescription medications that you have taken due to your injuries.
Expect some complexity. The defendant is not responsible for what happened before the accident, but they are responsible for the effects of the accident—including any worsening of your pre-existing conditions. That said, it can be challenging to define where one injury ends and another begins. Your case may require expert witnesses and may take longer to resolve than a more clear-cut case. You should also understand that your compensation may be reduced to account for your pre-existing conditions.
Enlist the help of an attorney. Because these cases tended to be very complicated, it’s best to enlist the help of an attorney from the beginning. An experienced personal injury attorney will likely have dealt with many of these types of cases. They will know the ins and outs of the law related to pre-existing conditions so they can help you use them to your full advantage. They also understand the tactics of Big Insurance. It is likely that the opposing insurance company will do all in their power to try to pass of your injuries as a result of past health problems. Your attorney knows how to stand up to these sometimes intimidating insurance representatives and get you the full measure of the compensation that you are entitled to.