A Pre-Existing Injury Will Not Bar Recovery From An Accident

With life sometimes being demanding, a lot of people have suffered past injuries that stick with them throughout their life.  For instance, a physically demanding job, such as construction, can result in someone having a back injury.  But, what if that person is in a car accident and they re-injure their back or the accident aggravates their back injury?  Can they still recover money for their injuries in the car accident?  The simple answer is “Yes”.

In Massachusetts, if an accident, whether it be a car accident, motorcycle accident, or slip and fall accident, re-injures or aggravates a pre-existing injury or condition, the accident victim is entitled to recover money damages for the aggravation of the pre-existing injury.  That is the difference between what the accident victim’s physical condition was before the accident and their condition or injury caused by the accident.  The same elements and categories of damages pertain to an accident victim with a pre-existing injury. 

For example, using the construction worker mentioned above, assume he was driving his car on a weekend day and stops at a stop sign.  A car comes speeding down the road and the driver is looking at this cell phone.  By the time this driver looks up, it’s too late.  He slams into the rear-end of the construction worker’s car and both cars are totaled.  The construction worker is seriously hurt and 911 is called.  An ambulance arrives and transports him to the emergency room.  He suffered a serious back injury and ultimately undergoes a microdiscectomy (back surgery) to remove herniated disc material that is pressing on a nerve root. 

The construction worker’s medical records refer to a prior injury that he suffered at work years ago.  This prior injury was a mild bulging disc.  He previously treated for the mild bulging disc and was does well over the past couple of years.  He never needed back surgery until this car accident. However, a person without the pre-existing back injury may not have suffered an injury severe enough to have required back surgery.  It does not matter.  In this situation, the construction worker is entitled to recover all resulting damages caused by the car accident even though he had a pre-existing injury to his back.  The medical bills for the ambulance transport, emergency room treatment and subsequent surgery are all recoverable.  Also, all of his lost wages from his time out of work following the car accident and surgery are recoverable as well.

Of course, the insurance company will minimize the aggravation of the injury and argue that the treatment or surgery would have been required even without the accident.  The insurance company will ask you to sign an autorization to release medical records so they can go fish through your prior medical records to try to use against you.  This is why you should follow our TIPS and not speak to the insurance company or sign any documents they send you.  Also, you must be very clear when speaking with your doctors and therapists and explain what is different now after the accident as compared to how you felt before the accident.  This will help try to separate the symptoms from from the pre-existing injury and the exacerbation of your injury from the accident.

Accident cases with victims, who had a pre-existing injury, can be complex and experienced personal injury attorneys should be consulted.  While some lawyers claim all personal injury cases are the same, nothing is further from the truth.  An experienced and skilled personal injury attorney will know how to properly handle cases with pre-existing injuries in order to maximize financial compensation for the injuries.  Don’t put your future at risk.