Pre-existing injuries and personal injury cases

Consider this:

You were involved in an automobile accident a few months ago.  You were taken to the hospital, treated for whiplash and neck pain, then discharged later that day.  Later, you saw your PCP a few times, and have been seen by a Physical Therapist once a week for 5 weeks to reduce the pain in your neck and improve your range of motion.

One day you receive a phone call from an insurance adjuster for the person who hit you.  They make a very small offer to settle your case that doesn’t cover all of your medical expenses and fails to leave you with just compensation.  The reason?  They noticed on your medical reports that you had a been to a chiropractor 5 years before the accident seeking relief from “neck and shoulder stiffness.”

After they express their sorrow that their insured ran into you, they state that the neck pain and stiffness that you have been treating for since the accident is really just a result of your “pre-existing injury” as shown by the chiropractic treatment that you received 5 years ago.  Because of this, they can only offer a settlement that covers your trip to the hospital, and none of the subsequent visits to your PCP or Physical Therapist.

This is not true.

Insurance adjusters are paid to find ways to get you to accept the least amount of money possible in order to make you and your claim go away.  Fortunately here in Maine case law is clear, Lovely v. Allstate Insurance Co. (1995) is the leading case on this matter.  If you are involved in an automobile accident that exacerbates or aggravates a pre-existing injury or condition, it is possible for you to receive compensation for that exacerbation or aggravation.

This is a powerful tool to use when trying to obtain fair compensation for your injuries.  But, it is not one that the insurance adjusters want you to know about.  Make sure that you know all the facts before accepting any settlement.