When dealing with personal injury claims in Massachusetts, the issue of preexisting injuries often arises. Most people are not in absolute perfect health. In fact, most of us have some sort of a preexisting injury or condition. When someone is injured in a car accident, slip and fall accident or any other type of accident that was caused by someone else, a preexisting medical condition or injury may impact the ability to recover full compensation.
Insurance companies frequently use an accident victim’s preexisting medical condition or injury against them and make receiving compensation much tougher than accident cases of someone who has no prior injuries or medical condition. This is why accident victims turn to experienced personal injury lawyers for help after being hurt in an accident.
An Overview of Massachusetts Personal Injury Claims
If you are injured in an accident that was caused by someone else, the laws in Massachusetts allow you to seek financial compensation for damages suffered in the accident. The way you seek compensation is through a personal injury claim.
Personal injury claims are legal claims whereby the injured party alleges that another person (i.e., another driver or owner of real estate) was negligent and their negligence caused the accident victim’s injuries. Negligence is a legal principle that holds someone responsible for their failure to exercise the standard of care that a reasonably prudent person would have exercised in a similar situation. In a nut shell, negligence is an act that breaches a duty owed to others that caused damages. Thus, if someone is found to have been negligent, they would be responsible to compensate the person injured for the damages suffered.
Damages in personal injury cases are the injuries and losses an accident victim suffers because of another person’s negligence. Damages are also the financial award or compensation the injured party collects in a personal injury claim. In Massachusetts an accident victim is entitled to an award equal to the monetary value of the actual loss proximately caused by the wrongful acts of another. Common elements of damages are medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering.
How Preexisting Injuries or Medical Conditions Complicate Injury Claims
Personal injury claims involving pre-existing injuries present complicated issues than other types of claims. Insurance companies will often raise preexisting injuries or medical conditions as a defense. When this defense is raised, the insurance company is trying to avoid paying or minimize any payments they may be legally responsible for by claiming that the injury or injuries were preexisting. In other words, they will claim that the accident didn’t cause the injuries.
When seeking compensation in a personal injury claim, the accident victim (or their lawyer) will provide the insurance company with medical records and bills to support their claim. The medical records may reference a preexisting injury or medical condition. When an insurance company sees this, they go into defense mode. They often have the medical records reviewed by their own doctor in hopes of getting a medical opinion that the injuries were preexisting and were not a result of the accident. For example, we recently handled a motor vehicle accident case where our client was rear-ended by a negligent driver in West Roxbury. Our client suffered a serious back injury and required a back surgery. In the past, he suffered a back injury, which was noted in his medical records. When the insurance company learned this, they had the medical records reviewed by their doctor, who claimed that the rear-end collision didn’t cause the need for the recent back surgery and that it was related to his prior injury. Our client’s back surgeon completely disagreed. After much litigation, we were able to successfully settle his case.
If you find yourself in this type of situation, don’t let it discourage you from fighting to get the compensation you deserve. An experienced personal injury attorney can help.
An Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help Combat the Preexisting Injury Defense
As stated above, personal injury claims that involve preexisting injuries or medical conditions make claims much more complex. If an insurance company denies your claim or refuses to pay you the full compensation you deserve for your injuries, you should consult with an experienced Massachusetts personal injury lawyer. A lawyer who specializes in personal injury and accident cases will have the experience and skills needed to combat the insurance company’s defense of a preexisting injury. Here are some ways a lawyer can help:
- When dealing with a preexisting injury, a lawyer will be able to obtain and highlight clear evidence that shows the accident aggravated the preexisting injury to help substantiate the victim’s injury case.
- An experienced lawyer will be familiar with the Eggshell Skull Doctrine (you take your victim as you find them) and the laws and court rulings on aggravation of a preexisting injury. One specific court case held that where an injury arising from a cause which entails liability on the defendant combines with a preexisting injury to bring about greater harm to the plaintiff than would have resulted from the injury alone, the defendant may be liable for all the consequences.
- In most cases of this type, medical experts may be required. A medical expert will be able to clarify the damage from a previous injury compared to the injuries suffered in the present accident.
- An experienced attorney can help an accident victim avoid some of the pitfalls of personal injury cases involving preexisting injuries. For example, when an insurance company learns that an accident victim had a preexisting injury, they usually ask for the accident victim to sign a medical authorization, so the insurance company can get all of the prior medical records. Unless the form is worded properly, the authorization may provide unrestricted access to all of the victim’s medical records. An experienced personal injury attorney, in most cases, will usually advise against signing such a form.
If you had a preexisting injury or medical condition, you should not let it discourage you from pursuing compensation for your injuries. This is especially so if the insurance company tells you that your preexisting injury precludes you from receiving compensation. In these situations, it is very important to consult with an experienced accident attorney.
Contact the Framingham Injury Firm of Mahaney & Pappas If You’ve Been Injured in an Accident
If you have been seriously injured in an accident and had a preexisting injury, you should contact an experienced Massachusetts personal injury attorney. Even though you had a prior injury, you deserve to be fairly compensated for your injuries and damages that were caused by someone else’s negligence.
The Framingham personal injury attorneys at Mahaney & Pappas, LLP offer complimentary consultations where we will evaluate your case and provide you with an honest valuation of your accident claim. We offer contingent fee agreements on car accident cases, which means you don’t pay us anything unless and until we get you the money you deserve for your injuries.
To speak with someone on our legal team or to schedule your free meeting, please call (508) 879-3500 or contact us online.