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Aggravation of Pre-Existing Injuries After an Accident

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Grasping the legal nuances is crucial for those in accidents that worsen pre-existing conditions. These cases present a dual challenge: they complicate the medical assessment and introduce distinct legal hurdles that can sway the resolution of a personal injury claim. Understanding this interplay is essential for a fair evaluation and successful legal strategy in personal injury cases.

Distinguishing between the aggravation of a pre-existing condition, which implies a long-term or permanent worsening, and an exacerbation, meaning a temporary intensification of symptoms, is critical.

At Colburn Hintze Maletta, we specialize in handling the complexities that arise in personal injury cases involving pre-existing conditions. If you find yourself dealing with the challenging path of an accident that has impacted a pre-existing condition, we are here to provide you with expert legal assistance tailored to your unique situation.

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Aggravation of Pre-Existing Injuries After an Accident

Examples of Pre-existing Medical Conditions

Pre-existing injuries encompass a broad range of medical conditions that existed before the accident in question. Some common examples include:

  1. Spinal issues, such as herniated discs or chronic back pain
  2. Joint problems like arthritis or previous joint surgeries
  3. Neurological conditions, including migraines or past concussions
  4. Pre-existing fractures or broken bones

Understanding what constitutes a pre-existing injury is essential as it can affect both the course of legal proceedings and the compensation you might receive.

aggravation of pre-existing injury due to workplace accident

What Kinds of Accidents Can Lead to an Aggravation of Pre-Existing Injuries?

Various types of accidents have the potential to aggravate pre-existing conditions, and understanding these can be crucial for your personal injury claim. Here are some common scenarios:


  • Car Accidents: Sudden impacts can worsen existing spinal or disc issues.
  • Slip and Falls: These accidents can be especially risky for those with osteoporosis or arthritis.
  • Workplace Incidents: Repetitive motions or heavy lifting can aggravate prior injuries like wrist or back issues.
  • Sports Activities: High-impact recreational activities often exacerbate musculoskeletal conditions like sprains.
  • Medical Procedures: Sometimes, treatments intended to help one condition may aggravate another existing issue.

What is the difference between aggravation and exacerbation of injury?

These two terms, often used interchangeably, have distinct meanings in the legal context.

Aggravation: Regarding personal injury law, aggravation refers to worsening a pre-existing injury because of a new accident. For instance, if you had mild arthritis that became severely painful post-accident, it’s considered an aggravation of the pre-existing condition.

Exacerbation: This term suggests a temporary flare-up of symptoms rather than a permanent worsening of the condition. For instance, a prior back issue might have symptoms that flare up temporarily due to an accident but revert to their previous state after some time.

how do insurance companies help with whiplash

Will Your Insurance Company Assist With Whiplash Injuries and Compensation?

Dealing with insurance companies after experiencing a whiplash injury in a car accident is often frustrating. Insurance companies are, at the end of the day, businesses aiming to minimize their expenses.

Here’s what you should know about how they may approach your whiplash injury:

  1. Initial Claims: You may file a claim with your insurance company or the at-fault driver’s insurance company after an accident. Most insurers will require some form of medical documentation to substantiate your whiplash injury.
  2. Coverage Limits: Your policy will have certain limits on what it will cover. For example, medical payments and personal injury protection can offer coverage for medical bills, but they might not fully cover the cost of long-term treatment for severe whiplash injuries.
  3. Settlement Offers: Insurance companies often attempt to resolve claims by offering settlements. However, these initial offers might not adequately compensate you for both the immediate and long-term effects of a whiplash injury.
  4. Denial of Claims: In some cases, insurance companies may deny claims related to soft tissue injuries like whiplash, asserting that such injuries are less “verifiable” than others, such as broken bones.
  5. Consulting an Attorney: Given the complexities involved, it’s often wise to consult a personal injury attorney experienced in whiplash injuries to review your case. At Colburn Hintze Maletta, we offer a free consultation and can be reached at (602) 825-2500.

Knowing your rights under Arizona law is important when dealing with insurance companies.

Under Arizona Revised Statute § 20-461, insurance companies must act in good faith,

meaning they must deal fairly and honestly with your claim. Any violation could be grounds for a bad faith claim against the insurance company.

By understanding how insurance companies operate, you’ll be better equipped to secure the compensation you deserve for your whiplash injuries.

When Should You Disclose Your Pre-Existing Injury?

Navigating an accident claim with a pre-existing condition or injury complicates the process. For instance, if you already suffer from a herniated disc and then find yourself in a car crash, demonstrating that the condition was aggravated by the accident can be challenging.

What and When to Disclose

The best approach is to be upfront about any pre-existing injuries at the start of the claims process. Yet, disclosure should be strategic. You can consult a certified personal injury attorney to guide you on sharing this sensitive information without harming your case.

The Downfall of Recorded Statements

Insurance adjusters may ask you for recorded statements to recount the incident. Proceed with caution. These adjusters are trained to frame questions that may later be used against you, potentially damaging your claim. Politely decline such requests and inform them you’ll be speaking to a legal advisor first.

Medical Authorization Forms: Tread Carefully

Insurance companies might also ask you to sign medical authorization forms to expedite your claim. Don’t fall for it. They’ll use this access to sift through your medical history, seeking any existing conditions they can pin your injuries on. Consult your attorney before signing any forms; they can manage the controlled release of your medical information to the insurance company.

Credibility and Full Disclosure

Your medical records relating to a previous injury will inevitably need to be disclosed to strengthen your case. Failing to disclose can damage your credibility and, by extension, your claim. An experienced attorney can strategically present this information in a way that supports your claim rather than undermining it to help you pursue the compensation you deserve.

proving pre-existing injuries

How do you prove the aggravation of a pre-existing condition?

Successfully proving that a recent accident has aggravated a pre-existing condition involves a multi-step process. The objective is to show convincingly that the new incident directly worsened your medical issues. Here’s how:

  1. Gather Comprehensive Medical Records: Make sure you have a complete set of medical documents describing your condition before the accident. This could include X-rays, MRIs, doctor’s notes, and prescriptions for treating your pre-existing condition.
  2. Secure Expert Medical Opinions: Seek medical attention from professionals who can validate the change in your condition. They can compare the severity and symptoms before and after the accident and provide essential testimony.
  3. Compile Treatment Documentation: Maintain a record of all new treatments, medications, or therapies you’ve had to undergo due to the accident. This can include new types of medications, more frequent visits to a physical therapist, or even surgical interventions that became necessary due to the aggravation of your condition.
  4. Obtain Witness Statements: If possible, get statements from family, friends, or co-workers who can attest to the increased difficulties you face in daily life after the accident. These testimonies can add a personal angle and corroborate your claims.
  5. Timeline of Events: Create a clear timeline showing the progression of your condition from the time before the accident up to the present day. A timeline can visually represent how your situation has worsened due to the accident, making it easier for juries or insurance adjusters to understand.
  6. Economic Impact Assessment: Prepare a list that shows any increased costs related to your worsened condition, such as additional medical bills, lost wages, or other out-of-pocket expenses.

The burden of proof typically falls on you, the injured party, according to Arizona Revised Statute § 12-2506.

With these steps, you can build a strong case to prove that your aggravated conditions were caused by the accident and potentially recover compensation.

Arizona Workers’ Compensation and Pre-Existing Injuries

In Arizona, employers are mandated to have workers’ compensation insurance to cover their employees for injuries sustained on the job. Unlike some personal injury cases, workers don’t have to show employer negligence to qualify for benefits. Conversely, suing the employer is generally not an option unless specific exceptions apply.

Here’s what to do to maximize your chances of obtaining the benefits you’re owed:

  • Openly disclose your pre-existing condition.
  • Clearly outline how the new accident aggravated your condition and its impact on your daily life.
  • Be ready for an appeal process should the need arise.
  • Engage the services of a skilled attorney.

Employers and their insurance providers often contest workers’ compensation claims, especially when pre-existing conditions are involved. The burden is on you to demonstrate that your recent workplace injury worsened your condition. Having an attorney by your side improves your chances of securing the appropriate workers’ compensation benefits.

Speak Today to an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney

If you believe your condition has been aggravated due to someone else’s negligence, consult an experienced personal injury lawyer. At Colburn Hintze Maletta, we can evaluate your situation and offer valuable insights into your claim’s legal strength.

To discuss your options in a free consultation, please contact us at (602) 825-2500.


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