Car Accidents and Pre-existing Injuries
Unless you are very young, very lucky, or both, you probably have an old injury that acts up every now and then. You may have made a full recovery after you injured your back when you were helping your uncle build a shed when you were 20 years old, but even all these years later, your back might bother you when you carry your sleeping children from the car to their bedrooms upstairs. The good news is that, for most people, these painful reminders of old injuries are temporary and go away after some rest. If you have a pre-existing injury, however, and you get into a car accident, the new injury can compound the old one, and you can suffer from much worse and longer-lasting pain than you did from the original injury. You might need the Kansas City car accident lawyers at Foster Wallace, LLC can help you recover damages in your car accident case based on the exacerbation of an old injury, no matter what your medical history is like.
Seeking Damages for Medical Expenses in a Car Accident Lawsuit
The purpose of asserting a car accident claim (and potentially filing a lawsuit if the case is not resolved pre-suit) is to get the negligent driver or his or her insurance company to pay you for the financial losses that he or she caused you. In a car accident case, your biggest financial losses are usually in the form of medical bills or lost wages in the event you cannot work for some time after the accident. If your injuries are so serious that you still need more treatment past the date that you file the lawsuit, you can also include future medical expenses in the amount of damages you are seeking. You will likely need an expert to opine on your future damages.
Many car accident cases resolve themselves quickly, once you contact a car accident lawyer. Sometimes your lawyer can convince the other driver’s insurance to pay a big enough settlement to cover your medical bills, wage losses, and pain and suffering, without even needing to get the courts involved. Therefore, you should not sign to accept the first settlement offer that the insurance company makes. You also should not give a recorded statement to the insurance company. Instead, let your car accident lawyer handle your dealings with the insurance company and speak on your behalf.
Proving That Your Injuries are the Result of the Accident
In order to prevail in a car accident claim, one of the things you must prove to the jury is that your injuries are the result of the defendant’s actions (in this case, the car accident) and were not caused by anything else. Similarly to how pre-existing conditions make it more difficult for you to get health insurance to pay for your treatment, your medical history before the accident can count against you in a car accident lawsuit. Remember that the insurance company’s goal in a car accident case is to avoid paying you money or paying you as little as possible.
Proving that your injuries are as severe as they are because of the accident, and not for some other reason, is easier the more complete your records are from right after the accident and, if possible, from before the accident. We have listed some ways for you to prove that the car accident really did exacerbate an old injury, rather than the old injury acting up for some other reason:
- Get your injuries evaluated in the emergency room immediately after the accident, so you can prove that you sustained a traumatic injury on the day that the accident took place. Your records from the ER will show that your injuries are consistent with a car accident.
- Show evidence that, until the accident, you were able to do activities, despite your old injury, that you can no longer do after the accident. For example, show pictures of yourself playing sports or text messages to your friends and family saying that you have just finished a workout or a long walk.
- Ask your primary care doctor to write a statement or testify that you rarely complained of pain, and your pain was never severe, for a long period of time leading up to the accident. Also submit your records to show this; what your medical records do not say is as important as what they do say.
Supporting Your Case with Expert Witness Testimony
Sometimes it is necessary to support your claims that the car accident has aggravated an old injury by summoning an expert witness. In a car accident case, the expert witness is a doctor who did not treat you but who argues that your injuries are the result of the car accident, based on an unbiased review of your medical records and based on published medical research. If your expert witness plans to cite published research in your trial, it must meet the Daubert standard, which includes the following requirements:
- The judge must review the research and decide that it is acceptable before the expert witness presents it to the jury;
- The expert’s scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue;
- The testimony is based on sufficient facts or data;
- The testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and
- The expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.
Plaintiffs in car accident cases should take heart that Missouri is a comparative fault state. That means that you can still win your personal injury case and collect damages for it, even if the accident is partially your fault. Even if you bear almost half of the fault for the accident, and this means that the court reduces the damages that it awards you, you will still be in a better position to pay for your treatment.