Personal Injury: Pre Existing Injuries & Prior Conditions
Pre existing injuries can be a challenge in a personal injury case, but the fact of a prior injury or illness does not have to be considered fatal.
Handling such issues is one of the reasons that accident victims should never attempt a "do-it-yourself" settlement, and should instead retain an experienced personal injury attorney.
The first rule is to be completely open and honest to your attorney about any accidents or health conditions that predate your accident. The reason is simple. The insurance companies already know about all of your previous insurance claims and an experienced personal injury attorney will know how to handle such issues if they are fully disclosed in advance.
The insurance industry has several ways of knowing about your previous accidents and injuries. There is an institution known as the Central Insurance Bureau, or CIB, which indexes insurance claims. Most major insurance companies subscribe to this service. Any time a new claim is opened with subscribing insurance companies, they "index" it. This means two things. They report the claim to the bureau, creating a permanent index. The bureau then sends that insurance company a report on all previous claims that individual has made.
This is one of the reasons that injured people should never give a statement early in the claim without retaining an attorney. Favorite insurance adjuster questions are:
- Have you ever been injured in an accident before?
- Have you ever made an insurance claim before?
The insurance adjuster already knows the correct answer to this question. A false answer damages your credibility for the rest of the life of the claim.
An experienced attorney knows how to properly deal with prior injuries and how to deflect problems. Perhaps the previous injury was to the knee, and the new claim is an ankle injury. The insurance company may well try to tie the two together. You shifted your weight. You put too much weight on the ankle. Or, they'll raise some other gibberish. The seasoned PI attorney knows how to counter this with medical charts and articles, or by asking the treating physician a pertinent question or two to clarify the record.
This is only one of many traps lurking in the insurance claims handling minefield, just waiting for unsuspecting "do-it-yourself" personal injury claimants.