Personal Injury Blog

What If a Car Accident Aggravates an Existing Injury?

Posted by Joe Lowman on Oct 9, 2017 4:40:22 PM

Car accidents often can aggravate previous neck or back injuries and other conditions. As a result, many individuals who have been injured in an accident think they may not have a claim if their injuries aggravate those existing injuries or medical conditions.

While it is true that you cannot recover compensation for a pre-existing condition or injury, you are entitled to compensation for the aggravation, increased severity or difficulty of treatment for your existing condition.

Insurance companies typically try to claim that the existence of a previous injury means you are not entitled to recover any compensation for your injuries sustained in a car accident.

After any accident, it’s essential that you call the police to report the accident and seek medical attention as soon as possible. Do not discuss your medical conditions with anyone except your doctor, lawyer or loved ones, and do not sign anything the insurance adjuster may present to you.

Check out our list of 7 things you should do immediately following an auto accident.

The responsible party’s insurance company and lawyers will scrutinize your medical history, past and current physical condition and the type of work you do for a living. They will strive to use the information they collect to minimize the amount of compensation that you will receive.

If your case goes to a jury trial, there is a Florida Standard Jury Instruction that informs jurors of your right to claim damages for aggravated pre-existing conditions:

In section 501.5 “OTHER CONTRIBUTING CAUSES OF DAMAGES,” which discusses the aggravation or activation of disease or defect resulting from an accident, it states that:

“If you find that the (defendant(s)) caused a bodily injury, and that the injury resulted in [an aggravation of an existing disease or physical defect] [or] [activation of a latent disease or physical defect], you should attempt to decide what portion of (claimant’s) condition resulted from the [aggravation] [or] [activation]. If you can make that determination, then you should award only those damages resulting from the [aggravation] [or] [activation]. However, if you cannot make that determination, or if it cannot be said that the condition would have existed apart from the injury, then you should award damages for the entire condition suffered by (claimant).”

But you may wonder what all of this means for you. We will help to further explain some important terms and explore some points that you should consider.

Determining “Cause” and “Type of Causal Relationship”

Although “cause is the legal term for a specific reason for injury, the legal phrase “type of causal relationship” can be interpreted in favor of the party who is defining it. Determining "cause" and "type of causal relationship" is vital, as it is a factor that aids in determining liability. Interpretations of "cause" and related definitions often are confusing, and insurance companies and lawyers attempt to use this lack of clarity to their benefit to find ways to avoid paying compensation.

Aggravation vs. Exacerbation

There are many legal terms used in car accident liability cases, and some attorneys try to misconstrue the meanings and interpretations of these terms. It is important to use these legal definitions properly to maximize the compensation you deserve.

According to the Workers’ Compensation Training Center, the following legal terms are often used in cases where someone has been in a car accident and has sustained injuries that affect pre-existing conditions:

  • Aggravation is “an increase in the severity of a pre-existing condition” where the underlying symptoms are permanently moved to a higher level of pain, discomfort or illness.
  • Exacerbation is “a temporary increase in the symptoms of a pre-existing condition” that returns to its previous level within a reasonable period of time.

Don’t Let a Pre-Existing Condition Keep You from Pursuing Compensation

Do not avoid pursuing compensation for your injuries because of any pre-existing conditions. The compensation you may be eligible to receive for the aggravation of those existing injuries is dependent on you establishing a record of the severity of the injuries and how they affected you prior to the accident.

An experienced personal injury attorney will discuss your injuries with you, review your complete medical history and advise you on the best course of action.

Make sure to be honest with your attorney when you discuss your case and medical history. He or she can decide how to handle any information that may complicate your claim.

We Can Help

If you have been injured in a car accident and are concerned about how existing injuries or other medical conditions may affect your claim, our skilled personal attorneys will assess your case and devise a strategy that can help you get the compensation you deserve. Contact Lowman Law Firm in Citrus County at 352-796-0016 or call toll-free at 866-9-LOWMAN.

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Topics: car accident, personal injury attorney, existing injury