Few people are in perfect health. Most of us have had injuries in our lives and some of us are living with lingering health problems. In Iowa, we still have a right to fair compensation if our pre-existing conditions were made worse or aggravated by a car accident. In other words, Iowa law doesn’t give a free pass to a careless driver just because a crash victim wasn’t in perfect health before the crash.
That does not mean, however, it is easy to get fair compensation if you had a pre-existing health condition before your car accident. The other driver’s auto insurance will usually try to claim you were “damaged goods” before the crash. Here are four things you should know to protect yourself from this common insurance industry tactic:
1. Don’t claim to be in perfect health before the crash if it is not true.
Your first instinct may be to hide the fact you had pre-existing injuries or pain before your accident. This is always a bad idea. No insurance company will pay a significant settlement without reviewing your past medical records.
They always find out the truth. If you tell a doctor or an insurance representative you never had a health problem before a crash and this is later discovered to be untrue, your case will be seriously damaged. Being caught in a lie or misrepresentation about your health is very difficult to fix.
Be completely honest with your medical providers, the insurance companies, and your car accident lawyer about any prior injuries or health problems. Remember, you have the right to be compensated for an aggravation of your condition caused by the car accident – but only if you tell the truth from the beginning.
2. Whenever possible, seek post-crash medical treatment from doctors who treated you before the crash.
Some people think that it is a good idea to start fresh with a new doctor or therapist after a car accident. This is usually a bad idea for people with pre-existing health conditions before the crash. The burden is on you to prove the difference between your pre-crash condition and your post-crash condition. If you cannot prove an aggravation of your condition, you will not be compensated for it. The best proof is often a medical provider who treated you both before and after the car accident who can explain how your medical condition is now worse. After an accident, if you must see a new doctor, be sure to fully explain your health history and how the accident caused a new or worse injury.
3. Explain the differences between your pre-crash condition and your post-crash condition to anyone who asks.
It is rarely enough to say “My back hurts more than it did before the crash.” The insurance company (and maybe your doctor) will require you to give a better explanation. An aggravation of a pre-existing condition can be explained in many ways. You may have new symptoms in the injured part of your body. You may have new physical limitations you didn’t have before the car accident. You may require different medical treatment to manage the pain.
Think carefully about how you will explain the difference between your pre-crash condition and your post-crash condition. A good explanation of how your condition was aggravated by the crash could be the difference between a fair settlement and a low-ball offer from the insurance company.
4. People with pre-existing conditions usually need help to get a fair injury settlement.
As I already mentioned, insurance companies love to avoid responsibility by arguing you were already injured before the other driver crashed into you. Convincing them that your condition was aggravated or worsened by the wreck often requires expert assistance.
An experienced car accident attorney can provide this assistance in several ways. Sometimes, your attorney can compare pre-crash x-rays to post-crash x-rays to find differences between the two. Sometimes, your attorney can point to changes in your pre-crash treatment needs as compared to your post-crash treatment needs. Sometimes, your attorney can get signed statements from your doctors explaining why they believe that you suffered an aggravation or worsening after the wreck.
People with pre-existing conditions need an attorney who can gather the evidence necessary to convince the responsible insurance company to pay a fair settlement. To find out how to pick the best Iowa car accident attorney for your case, visit FightingForFairness.com and download a FREE copy of the Law Guide to Iowa Car Accident Claims.