You may have heard stories about insurance companies that refuse to provide compensation for car accident injuries because the claimant had a pre-existing condition. If you have a pre-existing condition, you should know that this practice is illegal. You have just as much of a right to receive compensation as anyone else, and a personal injury attorney in Houston, TX can help you recover your damages.
Can You Still File a Claim If You Had a Similar Pre-Existing Injury?
Yes. Having a pre-existing condition does not disqualify you from filing a claim or receiving compensation for injuries you sustained in a car accident, even if you were more likely to get hurt than someone who doesn’t have a pre-existing condition. If another driver caused the crash, he or she is liable for all of your accident-related medical expenses.
What Is a Pre-Existing Condition?
In the context of a car accident, a pre-existing condition is any issue with your health that pre-dates the crash. Your pre-existing condition could be an illness, a disease, or an autoimmune issue. It could also be an injury like a sprain or a break.
The Eggshell Doctrine
Getting into a car crash can be especially dangerous for people with pre-existing conditions because their compromised health can make them more prone to injury. However, according to Texas personal injury law, those individuals do not bear the burden to be more cautious than others.
Anyone can be hit by a negligent driver through no fault of their own, and being more susceptible to injury does not disqualify you from filing a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance. This principle is known as the eggshell doctrine.
Proving Your Damages When You Have a Pre-Existing Condition
Anticipating the Insurance Company’s Objections
The insurance company may try to use your pre-existing condition to invalidate your case, so you will need to anticipate their arguments against you when planning your legal strategy. They will likely try to say that all of your medical expenses stem from the pre-existing condition as opposed to the accident. Your lawyer can help you gather evidence to distinguish the new injuries from the old.
Building your case can be especially tricky if you had an injury in the same part of your body that was hurt in the crash. For example, you may have sustained whiplash in an accident after getting surgery for a herniated disc in your neck. In that case, you would need to provide one set of medical records showing the extent of the damage prior to the accident and another showing that your condition worsened after you were hit.
Using Your Medical Records
Your lawyer can instruct you on how to request your medical records from the hospital. If your pre-existing condition was well documented prior to the accident, you may be able to show that your health had stabilized before the accident occurred. Even if you were still actively receiving treatments for your pre-existing condition, you may be able to show that the accident made your health worse by comparing x-rays and other diagnostics from before and after the crash.
The Importance of Going to the ER Immediately After a Car Accident
If you have a pre-existing condition, it is especially important to be seen by a medical professional immediately after you are involved in a car crash. Going to the ER will make sure the date of the accident is noted in your records. If your health deteriorates after that date, you will be able to show a link between the aggravation of your condition and the car crash.
In any case, going to the ER will enable you to get treated quickly for any injuries you may have sustained. Even if your injuries are completely new and unrelated to any pre-existing conditions, it is important to address them as soon as possible.
What Kinds of New Injuries Can a Car Accident Cause?
Car accidents put a tremendous amount of stress on the body. Any preexisting condition you have could take a turn for the worse after such a traumatic event. Even without a preexisting condition, the likelihood of incurring injury is high. In Texas, one person is injured in a car crash every two minutes and 34 seconds, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.
The health consequences of a car accident range in severity from minor bumps and bruises to catastrophic injuries that can lead to permanent disabilities and even death. Some of the most common car crash injuries include:
- Back injuries, including trauma to the spinal cord
- Broken bones
- Traumatic head injuries
- Internal bleeding
- Soft tissue damage
How Much Could Your Claim Be Worth?
When you sit down to list all of your damages with a lawyer, you might learn that your claim is worth thousands, tens of thousands, or even millions of dollars. In addition to your medical expenses, you can seek financial compensation for your lost wages, pain and suffering, and other losses.
You won’t know how much your medical expenses will cost until you talk to a doctor. Even then, the human body can sometimes take longer to heal than expected and require additional treatments. Therefore, it is important to pursue the maximum value of your claim. Never assume that just because you have a pre-existing condition you cannot seek the settlement you are owed.
How to Protect Your Eligibility for a Payout
You Are Responsible for Mitigating Your Injuries
In personal injury law, “mitigation” refers to an injured person’s responsibility to seek treatment for his or her injuries and practice good home care. If you avoid the doctor or do not follow his or her instructions, the insurance company could argue that you did not do enough to mitigate your injuries.
Observe the Statute of Limitations
In Texas, the statute of limitations is two years from the date an injury occurs. In other words, you have two years from the date of a car accident to file a claim for any resulting injuries. The date you incurred a pre-existing condition is irrelevant. If your injuries are so severe that you are physically incapable of taking action on your claim for a period of time after the accident, you may apply for an extension.
Use Discretion When Discussing Your Health
While having a pre-existing condition does not disqualify you from submitting a claim, there is no reason to give the insurance company grounds to argue that your medical expenses are related to any issue or incident other than the accident. Never share anything about your health on social media, and check with your lawyer before discussing details of the accident with anyone else, especially individuals who represent the insurance company or the other driver.
In most cases, your lawyer can answer all of the logistical questions related to your case for you. He or she can also negotiate with the insurance company regarding the size of your payout. If your own insurance company requires you to give them an interview, you can prepare your statements with your lawyer beforehand.
Fight for a Fair Payout With a Personal Injury Attorney in Houston, TX
Having a pre-existing condition does not mean you need to bear the financial consequences for an accident that wasn’t your fault. Our law firm has helped many clients with pre-existing conditions recover the compensation they deserve. To contact an experienced personal injury attorney in Houston, TX, reach out to Houston Injury Lawyers PLLC.