What if I Re-Injured My shoulder in My Car Accident? (The Issues of “Pre-Existing Conditions”)

Unless you’re very lucky, you likely have some type of nagging injury that you will be dealing with the rest of your life. Bad knees from sports, and tweaked shoulder from a home improvement project, or chronic back pain from years of sitting behind a desk. In reality, if most people were to have an MRI, chances are there would be some type of defect found.    

While you’ve probably learned to deal with it (no big deal right?!), if you were recently involved in an automobile accident, you’ve learned quickly that insurance companies zone in on so called “pre-existing conditions.” Their argument: your injuries aren’t really from the car accident, they were already there. And that’s why we aren’t paying. 

Now this may seem absurd. But pre-existing conditions can wreak havoc on your accident claim. For attorneys, like myself, it is of utmost importance that we know about any possible pre-existing conditions so that we can consider their impact on your case

Courts (and trials) aren’t necessarily like the real world. There are artificial rules (called Rules of Evidence), which prevent Plaintiffs from presenting certain types of evidence to a judge or jury. When it comes to pre-exisiting conditions, these prior issues can complicate proving  what injuries were “caused” by the accident. 

For tangible injuries, such as a fractured wrist sustained when you hit your hand on the steering wheel, the “cause” is pretty straightforward – the impact of your bones against hard objects causes a break.

With less visible injuries, such a torn rotator cuff, however, proving “cause” becomes less straight forward. So, for instance, if you’ve had a prior rotator cuff tear (i.e., a pre-existing condition), the insurance company will argue that any new tear was really pre-existing.  

In cases like this, my job as your attorney, is to review all relevant medical records and best determine what your doctor can and will testify about your accident injuries. In essence, I’m trying to figure out if the doctor can testify that your rotator cuff tear was caused by the accident to “a reasonable degree of medical probability.” If the doctor can only say the injury "maybe" or is "likely" related, that's not enough.  

So if you’ve been involved in an accident, you must be open about your medical history so that attorneys like myself can make genuine evaluations of your claim. If not, you can spend a lot of time and emotions on a claim that may be in trouble from the starting line.  

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