Accidents in Arizona can cause significant injuries. When others negligently cause accidents and injuries, the victims are entitled to pursue compensation for their losses by filing personal injury lawsuits. However, some people who have pre-existing conditions suffer an exacerbation of injury because of their accidents.
In other words, the victims’ underlying pre-existing injuries might be aggravated by their accidents. Insurance companies frequently point to a pre-existing injury in an effort to reduce the amounts that they might have to pay to accident victims or to avoid paying claims completely.
If you have suffered an aggravation of pre-existing injury in an accident, you should talk to an experienced attorney at Hutzler Law to learn about your rights.
Examples of Pre-existing Injuries
Many different types of injuries can predate an accident, including the following:
- Bones were broken in the past
- Disc herniations
- Back pain
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Neck pain
- Sprains and strains
Some injuries that predate an accident will not worsen because of it. However, others will be aggravated and cause worsened symptoms. If you have a pre-existing medical condition, it can also cause your accident-related injuries to be worse.
Some examples of medical conditions that can impact the severity of your injuries from an accident include the following:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Degenerative disc disease
Determination of Liability in an Injury Claim
When you file a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company, you and the insurance company will both have to determine liability or fault. Most injury claims are based on theories of negligence, meaning you will be required to show that the defendant was negligent by proving each legal element.
The elements of negligence include the following:
- The defendant owed a duty to act reasonably under the circumstances.
- The defendant acted in such a way that the duty was breached.
- The defendant’s breach of duty caused your accident and injuries.
- You suffered actual harm as a result.
To prove the elements of negligence, you will have to present evidence. Some examples of evidence that might be available include your medical records, witness statements, photographs, and others.
Immediately after an accident, you should go to a doctor for a thorough evaluation to document your injuries and show a causal relationship between them and your accident. You will need to tell your doctor about your accident and any symptoms you are experiencing. If you have a pre-existing condition or injury, tell your doctor that your current symptoms did not start until after your accident.
Your claim amount should not be reduced simply because a degenerative condition was discovered after an accident. In many cases, previously undiagnosed conditions will be identified in imaging tests completed after injury accidents.
If you had an old injury, you should ask the doctor who treated you to provide you with documentation of when it occurred, when you were treated, and when your treatment was completed. By showing that the previous treatment you received was successful, you can show support for your new claim involving an exacerbation of injury.
How Can a Pre-Existing Injury Affect Accident Claims?
If you are wondering how a pre-existing injury can affect an accident claim, an injury that predates an accident can cause several problems. In most injury claims, proving that an accident caused a specific type of injury is challenging. When the original injury predated the accident, proving that the accident caused the injury to worsen can be even more difficult.
For example, if you have a herniated disc that causes you to experience lower back pain, and you are subsequently injured in a car accident, it can be difficult to prove that your worsened back pain was caused by your accident instead of the pre-existing condition.
You can try to show the aggravation of pre-existing injury by presenting evidence that your disc herniation was less severe before your accident but was worsened because of it. For example, you might present evidence that you could control your back pain before your accident with ibuprofen or other over-the-counter medications but now require steroid injections and potential spinal surgery because of the impact of the accident.
Because of the subjectivity involved, an insurance adjuster will likely argue that you are malingering or are understating the effect of your old injury.
When Should You Disclose Your Pre-Existing Injury?
Accidents can happen without warning, and you have little control over how serious an accident might be. In many accidents, new injuries can impact injuries that predate them.
It is best for you to disclose any previous injuries you have at the beginning of the claims process. However, you should be careful in how you make this disclosure. It is best to discuss your case with a certified personal injury attorney at Hutzler Law first to avoid any complications.
Avoid Recorded Statements
After most injury accidents, insurance adjusters will reach out to the victims and ask them to provide recorded statements about what happened. However, you should avoid giving a recorded statement without an attorney.
Insurance adjusters are trained to ask questions in a specific way to elicit statements that the insurance companies can use against injury victims. If you say something wrong or allow the insurance adjuster to get you to agree with a statement he or she makes, your injury claim can be severely harmed. These types of statements are considered to be admissions against interests and can harm your ability to recover compensation in your case.
You are under no legal obligation to talk to the at-fault party’s insurance company. Instead, you should politely refuse and tell the company you want to talk to a personal injury lawyer at Hutzler Law. Your attorney can then deal with the insurance company on your behalf.
Avoid Signing a Medical Authorization Form
Another common tactic used by insurance companies is to ask victims to sign medical authorization forms to allow them to access the victims’ medical records. You might be told that the insurance company needs authorization to verify the severity of your injuries. The adjuster might tell you that your claim will be paid more quickly if you agree.
However, you should avoid signing a medical authorization form for the at-fault party’s insurance company. The company will use this form to pore through your entire medical history to try to find an earlier incident to blame your accident-related injuries on.
You should not sign anything sent to you by the insurance company without talking to an experienced attorney at Hutzler Law. Your attorney can handle the disclosure of your medical information without providing the company with wide-ranging access to your entire history.
What Needs to Be Disclosed during an Injury Claim
Medical records about your pre-existing condition or injury will need to be provided to the insurance company. If you do not disclose a pre-existing condition, your claim could be harmed. Failing to disclose this type of information can hurt your credibility and your ability to recover damages. Your attorney at Hutzler Law will know how to present evidence of your pre-existing condition and your current injuries in a way that supports your injury claim.
Reasons it is Important to Retain a Lawyer for Your Claim
If you suffered severe injuries because of your accident and had the symptoms of your pre-existing condition exacerbated, you will likely need the help of an experienced attorney to secure an appropriate amount of compensation.
Attorneys know the different approaches insurance companies take to avoid liability and can help you to navigate your claim. With a lawyer’s help, you might show that the accident caused your worsened condition and recover full compensation for your losses.
Arizona Workers' Compensation and Pre-Existing Injuries
Employers in Arizona are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance to protect their employees when they are injured in workplace accidents. Workers are not required to prove that their employers were negligent to secure benefits. However, they also are not allowed to file lawsuits against their employers unless an exception applies.
In the context of an exacerbated pre-existing condition in a workers’ compensation claim, you will not be able to recover benefits for the pre-existing injury itself. However, you should be entitled to receive workers’ comp benefits for the aggravation of your injury. You will need to take care to separate your new injuries from the original condition to recover benefits.
Employers and insurance companies typically deny or dispute workers’ comp claims when they know about pre-existing conditions. You will have the burden of proof to show that your workplace accident caused your injury to be aggravated. To increase the likelihood that you will fully recover the benefits you deserve, you should do the following things:
- Disclose your condition.
- Specify how your condition has been aggravated and how it affects your daily life.
- Be prepared to appeal if necessary.
- Hire an attorney.
When you have a pre-existing condition and suffer further injuries in a workplace accident, you will likely have to fight to recover workers’ compensation benefits. By retaining an experienced attorney at Hutzler Law, you stand a better chance of recovering the compensation you deserve.
What is an “Eggshell Plaintiff"?
Arizona recognizes the common law principle of the eggshell plaintiff. Under this doctrine, a plaintiff that is medically fragile has the right to be fully compensated for injuries sustained in a negligence accident even when their injuries are more severe than they might have been without a pre-existing condition.
In other words, defendants are required to take plaintiffs as they find them. Even if an accident would not have seriously injured a person without a pre-existing condition, the at-fault party will still be liable for the aggravation of your injuries.
For example, if you have a pre-existing cardiovascular condition and suffer a heart attack because of a car accident, your attorney should be able to present evidence showing that your heart attack was caused by the accident. The defendant would then be liable to pay damages for the medical costs related to treating your heart attack after your accident.
You should be entitled to be fully compensated for your losses even if you have a pre-existing condition.
Speak Today to an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
Your personal injury claim can be more challenging when you have a pre-existing condition. However, you should never take an insurance adjuster’s word that you must settle for less because of your underlying condition.
When someone else has caused an aggravation of your injuries because of negligence, you should talk to an experienced personal injury lawyer at Hutzler Law as soon as possible. We can review your claim and explain to you whether it has legal merits.
Call our law firm today to request a free consultation at (602) 730-4530.